Florida courts will consider modification of a child custody order only if the parent requesting the custody modification is able to prove a substantial change in circumstances. Under Florida law, a “substantial change in circumstances” means a substantial, permanent and involuntary material change. In other words, the change cannot be temporary, it cannot be caused by something the parent voluntarily did and the change must be big enough to warrant the court changing the original parenting plan or custody agreement.
Only after the court has been satisfied that the change in circumstances is substantial, will it then move on to consider what is in the best interest of the child. The reason for this is to prevent constant back and forth motions to change custody which would be destabilizing for the children. It also helps prevent the court from becoming overburdened with frequent and repetitive modification requests.
Parent relocation is one of the most common grounds for seeking a change in custody. The modification request may be submitted by a relocating parent who wants to take the child with them, or a parent opposing relocation who wants the child be placed with them. Some courts switch custody from one parent to the other, although the increasingly common approach is to ask the parents to work out a plan under which both parents may continue to have significant contacts with their children.
Another thing that can prompt a modification is if there is a significant change in the lifestyle of the custodial parent, which the other parent feels will adversely affect the child. For instance, if the custodial parent finds a new job that has longer working hours or the parent is leaving the child alone for long periods of time the court will consider modifying custody based on these factors. Also, if one parent begins drinking heavily or taking drugs, the other parent may file a request for modification of the visitation order. What amounts to a substantial enough change to warrant a revision can vary greatly depending on your jurisdiction and even your particular judge.
If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a divorce attorney to assist you in the matter by calling us at (904) 685-1200.