Is your custody arrangement no longer working for you? Did you know, 61% of first-time divorces involve children who are under the age of 18, and all of those divorces end in some type of custody or parent time sharing order. In Florida, custody or parent and child time sharing is one of just a few things that can be changed after a final divorce has been entered.
To change your custody agreement, you can do it by agreement with your ex-spouse or the parent of the child; that agreement must be in writing. Ultimately, however, that agreement will have to be approved by a court. If the other parent will not agree, you always have the availability of petitioning the Court to make the change. In order to succeed in getting that change, Florida law provides two major criteria to justify modifying custody or time-sharing arrangements. The first is that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances since the original order was entered and that the change in the custody or time-sharing arrangement would prove to be in the best interest of the child or children.
The first step you should take is to analyze what are the factors that the court would consider in determining whether this change that you want is in the best interest of the children. Those factors are outlined in Florida Statute 61.13. You can find them there. You should analyze each of those compared to your particular circumstances and decide, based on what the law says, is determine the best interests of my kids, do these circumstances support that. The second step is you should determine whether your ex or the parent of your children is going to agree to the change, or whether they’re not going to agree and you’ll need to file a court action. Step three would be if they are going to agree, is that you get that agreement in writing. Be very careful if you enter into a written agreement because there are a lot of things concerning the language; what is said, what isn’t said and how it’s said in that written document, even how it’s signed, that are very important to the success of your change.
Ultimately, if you have an agreement or no agreement, you have to file the action to modify the original order that is, in the same case, it’s a reopening of the case. If you have an agreement, your petition would say that you agree. If you don’t have an agreement, you would need to outline all of the factors, all of the basis, to establish a substantial change in circumstances and that it is in the best interest of the kids to make the change. Now this is something you can do without a lawyer, but the process of doing it and the law can be somewhat confusing. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, be sure that you hire an experienced and qualified lawyer who’s familiar with what’s involved in seeking a modification of parent time sharing or custody.