Certainly, the best way to deal with issues like unexpected problems with timesharing schedules is often for the parents to work together collaboratively to find a solution that best meets their children’s needs. That, however, may not always be possible. So, you may wonder, what happens if I have agreed to modify the parenting plan in the past but this time I don’t want to? Am I required to agree again? The precise answer to that question may lie in your divorce judgment and parenting plan, or may lie in other specific facts from your case, so you should be sure to consult with an experienced South Florida family law attorney about your legal rights and obligations.
As one recent case revealed, you may not be legally required to accommodate your ex-spouse. C.B. and L.W., the ex-spouses in that case, were the parents of two children. The children lived with the father outside Gainesville. The mother, on the other hand, moved several times. The parenting plan included in the divorce judgment acknowledged that the mother lived in Texas at the time of the divorce (2012) and that the mother would have timesharing “at times and places agreed upon with the father.”
At first, that meant that the parents had a “long-distance-friendly” timesharing schedule to accommodate the mother’s home being far from the children. In 2014, the mother had moved to Florida, so the parent moved to a “one-week-on-one-week-off” schedule. By 2017, the mother lived in New Jersey with her new husband, so the parents returned to the “long-distance-friendly” schedule.
In 2018, the mother again moved to Florida. This time, though, the father did not agree to make any changes to the timesharing schedule, so the mother went to court.
The appeals court said Florida law did not require the father to give the mother additional time now that she lives nearby as opposed to out of state. In order to be entitled to a court-ordered modification of your parenting plan, your ex-spouse has to show that the change she/he wanted would be in the children’s best interests.
Before that, though, she/he has to demonstrate that the event triggering her/his request for a modification constituted something that Florida law would recognize as “substantial change in circumstances.” She/he also has to show that the change was something that the two of you did not contemplate when you set up the parenting plan.
Evidence of a move, by itself, does not require a change in the parenting plan
In this circumstance, the mother’s move from New Jersey back to Florida did not meet the law’s threshold. An interstate move does not, by itself, constitute a substantial change of circumstances. In the past, parents’ moves from New York to Florida and from Florida to Michigan have been declared by the Florida courts to be insufficient to allow for a timesharing modification when the parent seeking that modification did not give the judge something more than just the facts of the move. That “something more” the law requires is proof that the “move impedes the present timesharing plan.”
How would that work? Take, as an example, a child who lives in Miami, 15 minutes’ drive from her father. Her parents’ parenting plan utilizes a “two-weeks-on-two-weeks-off” schedule. If the mother moves to Boca Raton, that move probably wouldn’t be something that would impede the continued execution of the existing plan, so that probably would not be a substantial change in circumstances. On the other hand, consider a child who lives with his mother in Miami and whose father, who lives in Hialeah, has timesharing every Wednesday night and every other weekend. If the mother gets an unexpected job transfer to Pensacola, that might qualify as a significant impairment on the existing plan and, with the right proof, potentially could lead to a modification of the parenting plan.
Ideally, divorced parents can collaborate in a healthy way to meet the needs of their children. However, when it becomes necessary to involve the court system, be sure you have a powerful advocate on your side. Call upon the experienced South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.