Can I Change My Existing Parental Plan?

Can I Change My Existing Parental Plan?

October 24, 2019 Off By Glespynorson

Maybe.  If your final judgment is no longer meeting your needs or the needs of your spouse or children, you may need to seek a modification from the court to change certain aspects of your parenting plan or time-sharing order. While most elements of a court’s judgment are final, in family law matters, you can seek to modify parenting plans, time-sharing schedules, child support orders and some alimony orders.  You can seek a modification regardless of whether the final judgment was entered based on an agreement or through a contested divorce trial. An important consideration to keep in mind, though, is that the law favors stability and you cannot re-litigate issues that were previously decided.

Parental responsibility and timesharing issues are often the basis for modification actions. For example, the court granted you and your former spouse a week-on/week-off time-sharing schedule in the final judgment, and since that time there have been changes in your spouse’s work schedule and where he or she lives—and now there is a marked difference in your children’s school performance. During the weeks that the children are with your former spouse they’re falling asleep in class, they often do not turn in their homework, they have a number of unexcused absences, and their test scores are dropping. They spend much of their time in transit, getting home late at night because of the change in your spouse’s home.  Further, contrary to what was understood at the time of the agreement, your spouse does not have the time to spend with the children during the week and they’re often unsupervised. In this example, you may want to seek a modification of your former spouse’s time sharing and request that he or she not have school day time-sharing.To be successful in a modification action you must show a substantial, material and unanticipated change in circumstance and that the modification is in the children’s best interests. Changing or modifying an existing order is more challenging than establishing timesharing or a parenting plan in an initial proceeding. The current status quo has been established by the order and modification of that status must meet the legal standard for modification as outlined by Florida law.

What constitutes a substantial change in circumstances is determined by the facts of each case. The change must be one that the parties did not contemplate at the time the court entered the original order. Additionally, the change must be something that directly effects the minor children. For example, at trial, you argued for sole parental responsibility because your husband had never been to a doctor’s appointment or attended the children’s school functions and he was incapable of making informed decisions about the children’s medical and educational issues. The trial court, however, disagreed with you and ordered shared parental responsibility. Since entry of the final judgment, your former spouse has improved his or her behavior but has continued to be absent at the children’s doctor appointments and school events. As a result, you decided to file a petition for modification again requesting sole parental responsibility, using the same or similar evidence. Because you and your former spouse previously litigated this exact issue, you would most likely not be successful in a modification proceeding seeking sole parental responsibility, as there is little new evidence to present to the court supporting your claim. That is not to say that if you ask for sole parental responsibility at the original trial that you could not ask for it again later. However, your request would generally have to be based on issues or facts not previously addressed or considered by the trial court that have occurred since entry of the judgment.

Whether you are just beginning the court process, or you are seeking to pursue or defend a supplemental petition for modification, we can help. Please contact our office in Naples, Florida to schedule a confidential consultation and receive legal advice based on your unique circumstances.

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The information provided on law and legal topics is designed for general information only and does not constitute nor should it be considered legal advice. It is not a substitute, nor should it be considered a substitute, for legal advice from a qualified attorney who is knowledgeable about your specific factual situation.