Can You Modify a Parenting Plan After it Has Been Approved?
When a couple with minor children divorces in Florida, the parties must submit a parenting plan to the court. The plan contains detailed information on who has what decision-making authority over minor children and the child time-sharing/visitation schedules. Once the parenting plan is accepted and approved by the court, it becomes part of the divorce judgment. This does not necessarily mean that the orders will remain unchanged until they expire as the children age into adulthood.
Parenting plans, visitation schedules and the like can be changed if certain strict criteria are met. On petition of one or both parties, the court may consider modifying the existing orders if: (1) There is a substantial change in family circumstances (2) that materially affect those involved and (3) the proposed changes are in the minor children’s best interests. This legal standard for modification is subject to interpretation and can often be difficult to meet.
Most peoples’ health, relationships and finances are in a constant state of flux. Sometimes, change happens very slowly over a period of years (i.e. a young child’s developing personality) and other changes are abrupt (i.e. the sudden death of a parent or a job loss). Whether these new circumstances are considered to be substantial depends heavily upon the individuals. Some people adapt well to certain types of new situations better than others.
Revisiting parenting plans also requires that the new circumstances greatly impact those involved. For example, a party may want to relocate with their child to an entirely different part of the country to accept a new job opportunity. Some ex-spouses will be devastated if their child moves far away, while others may have no objection to the proposed move. Context and personalities matter, and the court must weigh and balance every factor.
Most importantly, any proposed change must be in the child’s best interests. The state has a vested interest in protecting minors. Some parents may manipulate their children to harm their former spouse or for other selfish reasons. Therefore, family court judges have been entrusted to make sure that minor children are safe from parental neglect or abuse, or any change that would be detrimental to their well-being.
At Timothy W. Terry, Attorney at Law, I represent family law clients throughout the greater Orlando area. If your current Florida parenting plan or other order is no longer working and you’re looking to modify it, feel free to call 407-495-2399 or contact the office online for an initial consultation.