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Modifying your time-sharing order in Florida

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2024 | Family Law |

Many Florida courts no longer use the term custody in family court cases. Rather, your custody order is now called a parenting plan and physical custody is referred to as time-sharing.

Your parenting plan specifies how decision-making responsibilities are allocated between parents and your time-sharing schedule, meaning which parent a child lives with and when.

A parenting plan also contains terms for how summers, vacations and holidays are divided and language regarding exchanges and communication between parents.

Once your parenting plan is in place you must follow the terms or risk penalties from the court. However, raising a child takes place over the course of many years and this means that at some point, one or both parents’ circumstances change.

Substantial and material change

When this happens, the terms of your parenting plan may no longer work. You can change the terms of your parenting plan under Florida law only if you show a substantial and material change in circumstances.

There are no strict rules about what constitutes a substantial and material change of circumstances. It depends on the unique facts of each case.

However, there are some general guidelines you should keep in mind before you file a petition to modify your parenting plan. This will help you avoid wasting time if you do not have a strong reason for the modification.

Courts usually do not consider minor disagreements or issues involving daily interactions with the child substantial or material changes. The exception is if the daily interactions involve abuse or neglect.

For example, if you believe it is best that your child does homework immediately after school and goes to bed by 9 p.m. but your co-parent changes their household rules and now allows your child to stay up until 10 p.m. and do homework then, a court is not likely to consider that a substantial enough change of circumstances to change a parenting plan.

However, evidence that the child’s grades have suffered and that the cause is the different homework schedule might give you a stronger argument that this change has been substantial.

Schedule changes for legitimate reasons

Other common examples of a substantial change in circumstances include a change in a parent’s schedule that makes following the parenting plan impractical or impossible. This is often seen when one parent gets a new job.

Sometimes the change is in a child’s routine. As a child gets older, they may become more involved in sports or extracurricular activities. The time-sharing schedule might need to be modified to make sure each parent continues to receive meaningful time with the child.

It is important to remember that you and your co-parent always have the option of agreeing to the changes yourselves without letting a court decide. If you do agree, it is still best to modify your parenting plan in writing and submit it to the court.

This way, one parent cannot back out of the agreed upon changes if something goes wrong or they no longer agree with the other parent. The only way the new parenting plan can be changed again is by showing another substantial and material change of circumstances that occurred.