Will a Court Alter Our Child’s Custody Arrangements If I Don’t Get Along with the Other Parent?
Once a Florida court enters a final judgment with respect to child custody issues, also known as “parenting” and “time-sharing,” there is a heavy burden placed on either parent should they wish to later modify such orders. Essentially, the parent seeking modification needs to prove through “competent, substantial evidence” that there has been a “substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances” since the court entered its original child custody orders. Furthermore, the requested modification must also be in the “best interests of the child.”
A question that often comes up is, “What qualifies as a ‘substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances’?” There is no simple answer to this question, as it will largely depend on the facts of a given case. But we do know there are certain types of changes that Florida judges do not consider substantial enough to justify altering a parenting or time-sharing order. For example, the mere fact that a parent has obtained a new job with different working hours is typically not considered a substantial enough change. Nor is the fact that either parent remarries or has moved into a nicer house.
Appeals Court: “Acrimonious Relationship” Is Not a “Substantial Change in Circumstances”
Another thing that normally does not qualify as a substantial, material, and unanticipated change is the fact the parents simply do not get along. Take this recent decision from the Florida First District Court of Appeals, Light v. Kirkland. This case involves a divorced couple with a minor child. Under the terms of the final divorce judgment, the child lived with the mother during the school week and spent three weekends per month with the father.
The father later moved to amend this time-sharing arrangement. The trial court granted the father’s motion, which had the effect of requiring the child to transfer schools and live with the father during the week instead of the mother. The judge explained this change was necessary because the child was required to repeat a grade in school and the “parents were unable to co-parent effectively.”
The mother appealed the trial court’s ruling, arguing it was an abuse of discretion. The First District agreed, noting, “There is ample authority holding that an acrimonious relationship between parents or the lack of effective communication between parents is not a proper basis to find a substantial change in circumstances.”
That said, the First District returned the case to the trial court for further proceedings on the father’s petition. Specifically, the appellate court said the judge needed to clarify “whether the child’s school performance during a prior school year alone was a sufficient basis to find a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances since the entry of the final judgment.”
Speak with a Boca Raton Child Custody Modification Lawyer Today
Altering an existing time-sharing or parenting plan involves major upheaval for all parties concerned. An experienced Boca Raton child custody attorney can help guide you through this process. Contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-488-7788 today if you need legal advice or representation with respect to child custody or any other family law matter.