Post Judgment Parenting Plan Modifications in Divorce or Paternity Cases

By Orlando Post Judgment Modification Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias

Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011

Substantial Changes In Circumstances In Custody Time Sharing Parenting Plans

Parents with daughter happy

A parenting plans is the schedule of overnight stays of the children assigned to each parent by meditation or by the family court in divorce and paternity cases. It is also known as the time-sharing schedule or child custody plan and affects the amount of child support paid by one parent to the other.  Read Child Custody and Support for more details on parenting plans.

Modifying the final judgments in divorce and paternity cases require proof that “substantial changes in circumstances” occurred after the final judgment. However, your post judgment realization that the terms of the parenting plan of your divorce or paternity judgment were a bad deal for you is not one of these substantial changes. Instead, the post judgments events must change the fundamental dynamic of the parent-child relationship to justify changes in the parenting plan.

To expand on the page Post Judgment Modifications of Divorce & Paternity I will here explain the meaning of “substantial changes in circumstances” in parenting plans.

The Three Most Common Post Judgment Parenting Plan Modifications

(1) The Children are Mature Enough for The Family Court to Hear Their Opinions

Contrary to popular belief, Florida does not impose a standard minimum age for minors to testify about time-sharing. The applicable statute requires the child to possess the “sufficient age and maturity” for his or her opinion to matter, but does not specify an actual age. That being said, family law judges generally begin to want to hear from children between the ages of 12 and 14.

Naturally, the plan that was ordered when Johnny was 6 will impact him differently when he is 13. If during that time, Johnny has developed a justifiable preference to spend more or less custody time with one parent, that may constitute a substantial change in circumstances. However, before you get too excited about the possibility of spending more time playing softball with Johnny or with Mary, keep in mind that their preference does not guarantee your desired outcome. His or her opinion represent only one of several factors that a family court evaluates when considering a post judgment modification of a parenting plan.

(2) An Unforeseeable Change In the Residence or Work Schedule Of At Least One Parent

If one parent ends up moving much closer to the other parent’s residence, it may justify granting the moving parent more time-sharing. Conversely, if that parent’s move makes it more difficult to maintain the current schedule, a judge may reduce his or her time-sharing. Family law judges loathe creating undue travel burdens on children. Sometimes, transportation logistics acts the “tie breaker” between two competing plans.

Similarly, changes in work schedules can create havoc for a parenting plan. What used to be manageable now becomes unworkable simply because of new work hours. Assuming that these changes were unforeseeable, and were either involuntary or made in good faith, family law courts will often modify parenting plans to accommodate them.

(3) Dramatic Bad Parenting That Casts Doubts on Their Ability to Effectively Raise the Children

While one or two of these events are the most popular demands for post judgment modifications of parenting plans, it rarely justifies one in a family court. As a divorce attorney, I’ve heard countless variations of the “can you believe what he or she did” story. Or, my prospective client will explain in excruciating detail why the other parent’s new significant other poses a danger to the child.

I can assure you that the latter scenario hardly ever leads to the  modification of a child custody plan. Parents are expected to resume their social lives after their breakup; and introducing Johnny to the new boyfriend or girlfriend is part of this process. Furthermore, isolated “bad parenting” events (such as returning the child late from a visit, the child missing a day or two of school or the child coming home with a rash), by themselves, rarely justify a modification.

However, a continuous pattern of bad parenting that leads to a tangible and adverse impact on the child can often warrant a change in the parenting plan. Unfortunately, no list has been created that enumerates these “modification-worthy” events. Each potential modification situation must be reviewed on its own merits.

How To Get Help

For an honest appraisal of your potential modification case, please call me at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial 30-minute consultation with me. There is an hourly charge for additional consultation time. See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees.

During the consultation you will be able to explain your situation regarding modifications of your parenting plan. This will be followed by some questions from me. Then I will explain what I can or cannot do for you in court. If you have a case that should go to family court, I will quote you the amount of my retainer fee. In almost all cases, this fee is a fixed or flat amount which you will know before making a payment or signing any contract, not a rate per hour whose total payment is unpredictable.

Our attorney retainer fees for post judgment modification of decrees are between $1,800 and $3,000 depending on the degree of complexity of the case. See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees for additional information on this subject.

AAA Family Law represents clients in all of the county courtrooms of the Orlando metro area. We can also represent you in any family law appeal case in the state of Florida.

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