Couples who divorce when their children are young typically make some modifications to their original custody agreement over the years. (Physical custody is called “time-sharing” in Florida law.) A child’s needs and schedule can change significantly as they get older and get involved in more activities, so adjustments may need to be made accordingly.
Other factors can also necessitate a modification. A child may develop issues that one parent is better equipped to handle than the other, for example. Modifications may be warranted because of changes in one or both parents’ lives. These can include anything from relocation to a significant change in work responsibilities.
One parent may seek more time and parental responsibility (decision making) if their co-parent is suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues or has proven to be neglectful. Even repeatedly refusing to comply with the schedule can cost a parent time with their child.
A modification can generally be made to a parenting schedule for any reason, as long as both parents agree that it is in the child’s best interests. But, if only one parent requests a modification and the other resists it, a judge should only order it if there’s been a significant change that makes adjusting the schedule (and/or parental responsibility) the best thing for the child’s well-being.
Might a child support change be warranted as well?
A significant change in time-sharing can warrant a modification of a child support order as well. Child support in Florida is calculated based on a number of factors, including parents’ income and expenses and the child’s needs. If those things change significantly, a child support modification may be called for.
One additional factor that plays into the fairness of a child support order is the amount of parenting time each has. For example, say that a parent has their child 40% of the time and pays child support to their co-parent, who has the child the remaining 60% of the time. If the parent who’s paying support moves out of Florida and their parenting time drops to 25%, they’ll likely need to pay their co-parent more in child support since that parent will be caring for the child 75% of the time. Therefore, if you’re seeking a time-sharing modification, it’s also important to determine what kind of support modification is appropriate, based on Florida law.
Modifications to child custody and support need to be approved by a judge and codified, just as original orders are. If you are in need of a modification and you have questions, know that seeking legal guidance is always an option.