Is It Time To Modify Your Custody or Support?? > Ferraro Law Group, PL

Is It Time To Modify Your Custody or Support??

Stuart Divorce Attorney

Over 40 Years Serving the Treasure Coast!

Often times parents, typically those unrepresented in custody proceedings, will agree on a timesharing schedule with a belief that they can come back later to change it when time or budget permits.  However, modifying a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage or Paternity can be more difficult than you think.

Custody/Timesharing

To modify an existing custody order, a parent would have to prove that there has been an unanticipated change in circumstances, and that modifying the existing order would be in the best interest of the minor children.  If the parent can overcome the burden of proving that a change in circumstances exists, the judge will then reconsider the factors set forth in Florida Statutes to determine timesharing with the minor children moving forward.  Those factors 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.

There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the children or for or against any specific timesharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan.  Still, it is best to have an attorney who knows the judge involved, as each judge will tend to put more weight into some of the factors listed above than others.  For example, (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 is rarely considered without good cause.

Child Support

While it is often difficult to prove an unanticipated change in circumstances with regard to custody or timesharing, it is often the case where one or both parent’s income has increased or decreased.  This can be grounds for a modification if the change in income is permanent, unanticipated and changes the guidelines amount by more than $50.00.  Often, it is required that the parent seeking the change prove that he or she is not purposefully underemployed or the court can impute income at the level historically earned, or at a level capable of being earned when considering the parent’s work history, education level, market conditions and other factors.

If you are considering modifying your Final Judgment regarding custody/timesharing or child support, or if you have been recently served with a Petition from your ex, Contact Us for a confidential consultation on your options.