Parenting Plan Modification
When a child’s parents divorce or separate, a parenting plan is key to childrearing. Parenting plans are required in all instances where parents time-share a minor child. They are co-parenting tools that outline each parent’s responsibilities and set out a time-sharing schedule. Sometimes, however, the family situation changes and the parenting plan must be modified. If you want to modify your Florida parenting plan, talk to a family law attorney today.
A parenting plan is a court order. This means that parents must obtain court approval to modify them. In order to modify a parenting plan, Florida requires a “substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances” since the issuance of the plan. To get a modification, a parent must show both that the circumstances have substantially changed since the custody determination and that it is in the child’s best interests to modify the parenting plan.Changed Circumstances
Florida’s parenting plan statute does not specify what constitutes changed circumstances. Instead, the courts examine the facts of each case, in some instances considering the child’s input. Though the determination is made on an individual basis, it may be helpful to look at examples of what constitutes changed circumstances, which include:
- Evidence of one parent alienating the child from the other;
- One parent’s failure to follow the parenting plan;
- One parent inappropriately making unilateral decisions about the child’s welfare;
- One parent’s interference with the other parent’s time-sharing;
- Forbidding the child from calling the other parent;
- Refusing to return the child after visitation;
- Willfully and falsely alleging abuse against the other parent;
- Making obscene and derogatory comments about the other parent;
- Serious concerns about one parent’s moral fitness;
- Misleading the court in order to gain custody of the child;
- Causing disputes and arguments in front of the children when they have time sharing with the other parent; and
- Making co-parenting as difficult as possible.
However, if the parents merely have an acrimonious relationship and do not communicate, this, without more, is not sufficient to qualify as changed circumstances and warrant a modification.Procedure
Ideally, the parents will be able to come to an agreement on how to modify their parenting plan. In that case, they can generally get the modifications approved by a judge in order to make the changes legally effective. But a judge may alter the proposed changes to make sure they meet legal standards, even if the parents do not agree to the judge’s changes.
Sometimes, before approving any requested modifications, a judge will require the input of a guardian ad litem, who is a third party representing the child’s interests in the situation. The guardian ad litem can make recommendations to the judge, based on the child’s best interests. The court may also require the parents to complete a parenting education course.
If you want to change your parenting plan, an attorney can help guide you through the process and argue your case before the judge. Please contact the experienced West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.