Even after the entry of a final divorce judgment, changing life circumstances may warrant a modification of alimony, child support, or parenting plans.
Modification of Parenting Plans
Florida Courts are moving closer to an equal division of parenting time and responsibilities. We represent many spouses striving to reach equal time-sharing, believing that children are best served when both parents are actively involved in their children’s lives; but we also represent custodial parents where shared-parenting would not serve the child's interests.
We have also worked on many cases where one of the parents developed a serious drug, alcohol, or mental health problem. We are prepared to whatever is necessary to protect your child from a parent with a substance abuse problem or mental health disorder.
A petition for modification of a parenting plan or time-sharing schedule must show: (1) a substantial change in circumstances that was not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the final divorce judgment and (2) that the child's best interests would benefit from the requested modification.
If there is a substantial change in circumstances, courts must consider the following “best interests” factors:
- The moral fitness of each parent.
- The mental and physical health of each parent.
- The demonstrated ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities, including the extent to which those responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to those of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pendency of litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from making disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
Recognizing that litigation is not always a practical or affordable option, we also help parents negotiate out-of-court agreements to modify the terms of parenting plans in the light of a new job schedule, a new family, a child's preference to live with the other parent, or other changed circumstances.
Parents wishing to move across Florida or out of state must comply with statutory notice requirements, and will likely need the Family Court's permission to take children with them. The judge's primary considerations in granting or denying a relocation petition will include the following:
- Time actually spent with the child by each parent, other siblings, and other significant persons in the child's life
- Consistency of child support payments
- Special needs of the child
- The child's maturity and reasonable preferences
- The reason for relocation and whether the child's quality of life will be enhanced
We have experience in both seeking and challenging relocation requests and work expeditiously to achieve our clients’ objectives.
Modification of Child Support Orders
Both parents have a continuing obligation to provide for the financial support of their children. A former spouse who is seeking to modify a child support order has the burden of proving that there has been a substantial change of circumstances justifying modification. Modification of child support is within the sound discretion of the family court judge and will not be reversed on appeal absent a showing of abuse of discretion.
Modification of Alimony
A former spouse seeking to modify alimony must demonstrate that there has been a substantial change in circumstances or financial ability of one or both parties that was not reasonably contemplated at the time of final judgment.
Florida law also allows for temporary or permanent alimony modifications where the spouse who is obligated to pay alimony has suffered a reduction in income in good faith and without deliberately avoiding paying alimony.
Florida law also allows for a reduction in alimony where the spouse who receives alimony has entered into a “supportive relationship” with another person. Courts consider the following factors to determine if a “supportive relationship” exists:
- The extent to which the obligee spouse and the supportive person have held themselves out as a married couple by engaging in conduct such as using the same last name, using a common mailing address, and referring to each other as “husband" and "wife"
- The period of time that the oblige spouse has permanently resided with the supportive person
- The extent to which the obligee spouse and the supportive person have pooled their assets or income
- The extent to which the obligee spouse or the supportive person have supported each other
- The extent to which the obligee spouse or the supportive person has performed valuable services for the other
- The extent to which the obligee spouse or the supportive person have performed valuable services for the other's company or employer
- Whether the obligee spouse and the supportive person have jointly purchased real or personal property
- Evidence that the obligee spouse and the supportive person have an express or implied agreement regarding property sharing or
If you have questions concerning modification of a final judgment, contact us today at (813) 331-5699 to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.
What We've Achieved
- Successfully obtained custody and support modification for servicemember coming off active duty.
- Successfully defended mother at trial modification action alleging mental health disorders, violence, and substance abuse.
- Successfully defended mother accused of alcohol abuse and father sought change of custody.
- Successfully petitioned for modification of permanent alimony for former husband who experienced loss of income.
- Successfully represented former husband in obtaining custody of children due to former wife's alcohol abuse
- Successfully represented former wife in retroactive modification of permanent alimony.