When Should I Modify a Parenting Plan?
A judge may sign an order which says “Final Decree of Divorce,” but these matters are never truly final. At best, they simply lie dormant for a few years. Almost inevitably, life happens, and a divorce modification is necessary. Florida law sets forth a number of factors Seminole County judges must apply in modification actions.
A quick word about side-agreements. These pacts, even if they are written and signed, are never enforceable in family court. If the parenting time division has changed, no matter how slightly, get it in writing. These agreed modifications are relatively easy to process, so there is no reason not to call a Winter Park family attorney for help.
Rather than focusing on the aforementioned factors, this post will look at some common modification situations, and how to handle them in court.
Most people move at least once every few years. Most of these relocations are employment-driven, so they usually have child support and spousal support implications as well as parenting time implications.
Usually, any relocation, even if it’s only a move down the block, merits a divorce modification. Short-distance moves might alter pickup or dropoff times by fifteen or twenty minutes. Technically, if an exchange is off by one minute, the party is in contempt of court. And, each missed exchange is a separate violation.
Relocation-based modifications are almost always in the best interests of the parent. However, they are not always in the best interests of the children. That second inquiry is the only one that counts in this context. So, in court, parents must properly frame their relocation requests. Perhaps a new residence is in a better school district or a better neighborhood.
Changed Family Dynamics
Most people remarry after divorce. Unless the new spouse materially and directly has an adverse effect on the child, these modification requests are usually unsuccessful. The “wicked stepmother” is probably not enough. If the stepmother has a criminal record, that’s probably not enough either. If the stepmother has a criminal record which includes injury to a child, that’s probably enough.
Step-siblings do not always get along as well as the Brady Bunch kids. Once again, uncomfortable family dynamics are probably not changed circumstances in this context.
On a related note, the child’s age is not a basis for modification, at least in most cases. It may become more difficult to adhere to the parenting time plan as the child gets older, but parents must make the best of it. If Sarah refuses to go see her dad, her mom must usually cajole her, briber her, or use other means to convince her to go.
Onset/Removal of Disability
Substance abuse is a good example of a disability. Some parents develop substance abuse problems, and other parents overcome these issues. Typically, alcohol and drug problems directly affect the children. It’s reasonable to limit visitation for alcoholic parents, and liberalize visitation when these parents become sober.
The disability could be almost any other physical, mental, emotional, or other condition. The disability must be permanent. A broken leg, no matter how severe, is not a permanent disability. Moreover, as outlined above, the disability must directly affect the children’s welfare.
Contact a Savvy Lawyer
Parenting time plans typically require frequent modification. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Winter Park family attorney, contact The Troum Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Orange County and nearby jurisdictions.