When a Florida couple decides to end their marriage, the presence of minor children can add strenuous difficulty to an already arduous process. The divorcing parents may be required to devote significant time and energy to working out a parenting plan that is acceptable to all parties—the child, the two parents, and—occasionally—the court. After all that work, unexpected changes in the circumstances of either parent or the child may require that the plan be modified, again with the goal of accommodating all parties.
The parent who wants to modify the current parenting plan must present an application to the court that presided over the divorce. The application must be made using a form provided by the court. In filling out the form, the parent asking for modification will be asked to provide detailed information about each parent’s current financial situation, the child’s living situation, the child’s relationship with both the custodial and non-custodial parent.
The application will seek information showing how the child’s living circumstances have substantially changed and how the requested change will benefit the child. If the responding spouse does not object to the requested modification, the court may approve the request without a court hearing or the submission of additional information.
What is a “substantial change”?
A substantial change may include one parent being addicted to an illegal drug, repeated neglect of the child, mental issues for the child, the loss of or a change of job, or a significant health problem on the part of one parent.
If one spouse opposes the change. . .
If the responding parent opposes the suggested changes, they must submit a response stating the basis for opposition. In general, such responses must show how the changes are not in the child’s best interests or why the changes under the living circumstances are not sufficiently substantial to justify a change.
If the two parents do not agree, the matter will almost certainly require a court appearance by the parties and their attorneys.
What happens in court?
The court hearing will depend on what evidence the parties submit and what evidence the court needs to make its decision. The hearing itself may not last more than 30 or 40 minutes, but the gathering and organizing of evidence may require many hours of attorney and client time.
Solid legal support
Anyone who is interested in either modifying an existing parenting plan or resisting a motion to seek relief from the court may wish to consult a knowledgeable divorce attorney for an evaluation of the facts, assistance with gathering evidence and presenting the case to the court.