If you share custody of your child with his or her other parent, you have already been through one of the most difficult situations parents experience: establishing a custody and visitation plan. Getting through that process can be a source of great relief, and it allows parents to turn their focus to raising their kids instead of arguing over physical and legal custody rights.
However, there may come a time when you need to renegotiate or revisit custody arrangements. This means that you will have to go through the legal system again to ensure your custody plan remains fair and reflective of your children's best interests. Thankfully, it does not have to be a contentious process, as modifications are only appropriate in specific situations.
Modifications are not granted at the whim of parents or because one person is unhappy with a custody plan. In order for the courts to approve a modification of custody, Florida laws require that it be based on the "showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances".
In other words, there must be a significant event that changes a child's needs or parent's ability to provide care. These events can include:
- A child's development of a serious disability
- Relocation of one parent to another state or country
- One parent being convicted of a serious crime
- Death of a parent
Under these and similar circumstances, an existing custody arrangement could be impossible to carry out or put a child in danger and a modification would be likely. However, until and unless a court approves the modification, parents must make every effort to stay in compliance with the existing parenting plan and avoid any custody violations.
This can be frustrating or seemingly impossible, but doing so can be best for you and your kids in the long run. Parents who attempt to modify their custody arrangements themselves or informally could wind up in some legal hot water, so it is best to consult an attorney to discuss the legal avenues to protect your child and your parenting rights with regard to custody modification.