Issues relating to child custody are among the most emotional disputes during the course of divorce, and in the aftermath of a marriage dissolution as well. The reality is that many parents will need to change the arrangements of a child custody order after a final divorce decree has been granted. To modify a custody order in Florida, parents will have to abide by a very specific set of laws and requirements.
Legal Standard for Custody Modification in Florida
Each state maintains unique laws pertaining to child custody and associated issues, including parenting time or visitation. Florida law is very specific and unique as to what it requires for a court to have authority to modify custody. State law recognizes that minor children have a better chance of thriving when they have stable lives and routines. Key to this stability is a consistent child custody arrangement that is not subject to change on a whim or on a frequent basis.
Based on these considerations, all states maintain a standard to be applied when a court is faced with changing the custodial arrangement regarding minor children . A court can approve a requested change of custody if a demonstration is made that a substantial change of circumstances occurred or exists. In other words, if there is a custody dispute between parents - and the matter ends up in front of a judge - the parent desiring to make the change must demonstrate a change in circumstances.
Once the change is established, the Court will review the facts of the situation and determine what is in the “best interest” of the child. To win a child custody modification case, the parent seeking modification should be able to prove:
- There has been a substantial change in circumstances
- The modification is in the best interest of the child
Material Change of Circumstances
A material change of circumstances occurs when the existing child custody arrangement no longer meets/satisfies the best interests of the child. For example, if the custodial parent develops a health condition that may hamper his or her ability to care for a child, the non-custodial parent may be able to make a case that a material change of circumstances has occurred.
In proving a material change of circumstances case in Florida, the burden of proof is high: you must prove that a substantial change has occurred, and that the custody modification is in the best interest of the child. This can be a difficult legal task for parents to take on alone—that is why many seek the counsel of a family law attorney with working knowledge of Florida divorce and custody modification law.
Modification by Agreement Between Parents
Generally speaking, parents have the legal ability to mutually agree to an alteration of a child custody arrangement or even a total modification of child custody. This agreement must be presented to the court, where the judge may issue an order approving or denying the proposed alteration.
Technically, even when the parents agree, a judge must ascertain whether or not the proposed custodial alteration is in the best interests of a child. Modification by parental agreement can be used for special events or occurrences, and even for permanent modifications.
Parents should not sign any written document without having it thoroughly reviewed by a family lawyer who has years of experience handling complex divorce and child custody matters. Whether you are seeking custody modification or are fighting against a modification, contact The Virga Law Firm, P.A. and secure dedicated counsel with our Panama City family attorney!