There are actually multiple different ways to defend successfully when you child’s other parent asks the court to modify timesharing. For one thing, you can demonstrate that the proposed change isn’t in the child’s best interest, but that can often be intensive in terms of time, money and stress. Another, and perhaps more efficient, way to stop a proposed change to timesharing is to persuade the judge that there has been no “substantial change” in circumstances since the court issued the original order on timesharing. If the other parent hasn’t sufficiently proven that a substantial change has occurred, then the law prevents the court from making any changes at all. Whatever path you choose in order to defeat a proposed change to timesharing, be sure you have an experienced South Florida family law attorney advocating for you.
When it comes to the issue of a substantial change in circumstances, the case of D.H. and A.H. is a useful one. The couple divorced and the court awarded the parents shared parental responsibility with the mother receiving majority timesharing. Then, six months later, they were back in court based on motions to modify timesharing. The judge, at that point, decided to award the father majority timesharing.
The mother appealed and she won. In her appeal, she argued that the only “change in circumstances” that had occurred since the divorce judgment was the father’s moving some 47 miles away. The appeals court agreed with the mother’s argument that a move of such a short distance was too minor to constitute a “substantial change in circumstances.”
Florida law requires that, before a court can award a parent a change of timesharing, that parent has to show that a change of circumstances has occurred and that this change was “substantial.” This standard exists to keep disgruntled parents from engaging in endless timesharing litigation for no reason other than they lost the last round.
The guideposts of what is (and isn’t) ‘substantial’ in terms of a parent’s move
The appeals court in A.H. and D.H.’s case laid out some examples of what does, and what doesn’t, constitute a substantial change in circumstances. For example, even if the relationship between the two parents has deteriorated and their ability to communication effectively with each other has declined significantly, that inability to get along and communicate falls short of the law’s standard of a “substantial change.”
When it comes to relocations, short moves generally are inadequate to clear that “substantial change” hurdle. In 2011, the First District Court of Appeal said that a 28-mile move from Clay County to St. Johns County wasn’t enough. In another case, another appeals court said that a 45-mile move was insufficient. The courts have stated, on the other hand, that if a parent moved “hundreds of miles” away, then that would qualify as a substantial change.
This father’s 47-mile relocation fell much closer to the 28 and 45-mile moves than the hypothetical relocations hundreds of miles away. In other words, it was too minor an event to qualify as a substantial change in circumstances. Because there was no substantial change in circumstances, the trial judge was not allowed to make any changes to the existing timesharing agreement and should have denied any modifications, leaving majority timesharing with the mother.
Family law cases can present multiple different avenues leading to a successful result. To be sure that you are taking the best path to get to the outcome you desire, rely upon the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our diligent attorneys have been giving our clients effective representation for many years in a full spectrum of family law cases, including timesharing disputes. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.