Change is life’s only constant. When substantially changing circumstances make modifying your children’s custody arrangements necessary, the law offers a way to do that. However, the law imposes rules around changing timesharing orders. The arrangement the judge imposed as part of your divorce decree or parenting plan is an enforceable court order that remains in effect until a court modifies it.
Consult a skilled attorney when you and your co-parent need to adjust your timesharing arrangement. A West Palm Beach timeshare (child custody/visitation) modification lawyer could walk you through the process and ensure you emerge with an enforceable parenting arrangement that supports everyone’s needs.
Modification Process When Parents Agree
Sometimes both parents recognize that modifying the timesharing arrangement will be beneficial. The parents can design a timesharing (child custody/visitation) schedule that better suits them, and a lawyer could submit it to the Palm Beach County Family Court for approval.
Even when the parents agree, Florida Statute § 61.13(3) requires a judge to review any change in the parenting plan to ensure it is in the best interests of the children. The judge may consider numerous factors when deciding on the children’s best interests.
If the judge approves the change, the court will issue a modified timesharing order, and the agreement will go into effect. If the judge questions whether the change best serves the children, the court might schedule a hearing for the parents to explain their modification proposal. Parents must continue honoring the original agreement until the court issues the modified order.
Options When Parents Disagree on Modification
When one parent seeks a timesharing change and the other objects, the parent who wants a modification must petition the court. The petitioning parent must prove two elements: a substantial permanent change in circumstances was not anticipated at the time of the final judgement and the proposed change is in the children’s best interests.
Substantial Change in Circumstances
The law favors stability in timesharing arrangements because of the belief that children need a predictable and constant schedule. It only allows a parent to seek a change if they can show that the current arrangement has become unworkable.
The parent must prove a significant change in circumstances merits changing the order. Some circumstances that a judge might find meet the substantial change standard include:
- Permanent and substantial changes to one parent’s work schedule
- A child’s health or educational needs require a different arrangement
- One parent has developed a health problem that impairs their supervision capabilities
- One parent has lost a home or relocated to an unsafe home
- Co-parents cannot communicate effectively to support their children
- One parent alienating the children against the other parent
A child’s preference is usually insufficient to merit a change to the timesharing agreement.
A West Palm Beach attorney could review a parent’s circumstances and help them determine whether the change justifies modifying a timesharing (child custody/visitation) order. If so, the legal professional could prepare the petition and present it to the court.
The Change is in the Child’s Best Interest
Once the petitioning parent has satisfied the court that changing the timesharing order is necessary, they must convince the judge that it is in the children’s best interests. Courts will not grant a change to serve the convenience or benefit of the parent alone. Judges do not assume that what is good for the parent is also good for the children.
A parent must demonstrate the proposed change serves the children using the criteria outlined in Florida Statutes § 61.13(3) and any other relevant information. The parent’s arguments should emphasize the advantages the children will gain through the proposed change. The opposing co-parent will have the opportunity to argue for the status quo.
Emergency Changes to Custody Orders
Sometimes emergency situations arise that require immediate changes to the timesharing arrangement. Courts will consider these situations if they are true emergencies. Examples include cases in which a parent:
- Tries to remove a child from the state or the country without the co-parent’s permission
- Is drunk or using drugs while caring for the children
- Is physically or sexually abusive to the co-parent or the children
- Exposes the children to crime
- Allows unacceptable third parties, such as a convicted sex offender, access to the children
Any situation that places a child in danger of imminent physical or emotional harm could merit an emergency change in the parenting plan.
A parent could seek an emergency change by filing a petition with the court. If the court grants the change, it will issue a temporary modification and schedule a hearing within a few weeks to allow the co-parent to present their side. A lawyer in West Palm Beach could represent a parent at the hearing to argue their position regarding the timesharing (child custody/visitation) modification.
Contact a West Palm Beach Timeshare (Child Custody/Visitation) Modification Attorney Regarding a Change
When life events require you to change your timesharing arrangement, the law allows this under specific circumstances. The process is much simpler and faster if parents agree on a change. The requesting parent must meet a significant legal burden to obtain a modification over the other parent’s objection.
A West Palm Beach timeshare (child custody/visitation) modification lawyer could help a parent on either side of the adjustment issue. Call today to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney.