In every Florida court case where a child is involved, the court is required to determine what is in the best interest of the child. This is true in cases where a parenting plan is initially formed or is presented to the court to be modified. If your parenting plan or your former partner is no longer conforming to meet the standards in the best interests of your child, contact your Orlando Child Custody Attorney to file the proper motions and protect you and your child.
Before approaching the court with your modification request, it is important to understand the standard used by the court in determining a modification of a pre existing parenting plan. Florida statute states, “the court shall determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, except that modification of a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule requires a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances.” (61.13). There are two key points to draw on from this statute: the best interest of the child and substantial change in circumstances.
The best interest of the child is a consideration of many relevant factors by the court to decipher the unique needs of each individual child. The court evaluates every factor on a case by case basis. The factors used by the court are provide by Florida statute and include:
“(a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
(k) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
(l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
(m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
(n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
(o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
(p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
(s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.”
Courts typically will draw upon a child’s physical, mental and emotional health when considering the above factors. Courts have previously found instances such as, changes in a child’s health, education, or living arrangements to result in a necessary modification of parenting plan to better obtain a child’s best interest. Your Orlando Child Custody Attorney will be able to address each factor with you and apply them to your individual case. If found that your former partner or existing parenting plan is in conflict with these factors, you may further discuss the need for a modification.
In order to obtain a modification, you must be able to display a substantial change in circumstances. A substantial change may include a parent’s criminal conduct, child abuse or neglect, serous injury or illness. It is typically easy to draw a causal connection between a substantial change in circumstances, and a child’s best interests. However, arguing and presenting such evidence before a court can be an emotional and demanding process. Therefore, if your partner is no longer placing the best interests of your child at the forefront of their mind or actions contact an Orlando Child Custody Attorney to assist you in protecting your child.
Speaking to an attorney at our office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.