When parents divorce, they will typically share custody of their children. In some instances, one parent will initially be granted the majority of custody time, but subsequent changes in circumstances will lead to a modification that allocates primary custody to the other parent. Recently, a Florida court addressed the issue of whether a modification order that changes the right to the majority of parenting time from one parent to another must include terms for how the other parent can regain meaningful time sharing rights. If you are involved in a dispute over custody of your child, it is critical to speak to a trusted Florida child custody attorney to discuss what steps you can take to protect your rights.
Factual and Procedural History
It is reported that the mother and father divorced in 2015. Pursuant to the divorce decree, the mother was granted the majority of the parenting time of the couple’s minor child. In 2019, the father sought a modification of the custody arrangement. The court granted the modification, giving the majority of parenting time to the father.
It is alleged that the mother conceded that a material change in circumstances occurred that required a change in custody and did not contest the terms of the time-sharing arrangement under the supplemental order. The mother nonetheless appealed the order, arguing that the court erred in failing to set forth what steps the mother could take to regain substantial parenting rights.
Requirements of Orders Changing Parent Time-Sharing Rights
On appeal, the court noted that Florida case law was split on the issue of whether an order modifying custody must set forth measures a parent can take to regain meaningful rights. Specifically, three of the districts held that when a trial court restricts or denies a parent’s time-sharing rights, the court must describe the steps the parent can take to be awarded significant time with a child. Two of the districts held, however, that the Florida Statutes did not require or authorize the courts to prescribe such terms.
Upon review, the appellate court ultimately held that while the failure to include such steps in an order was not an error, it was also not prohibited because the relevant laws did not expressly authorize the courts to set forth such terms. Instead, the court held that it was within the discretion of the courts as to whether to include them in an order or judgment defining or modifying custody.
The court explained that pursuant to the legislative intent and history of case law interpreting Florida’s family law statutes, a court’s decision to establish benchmarks or similar provisions in a time-sharing order is governed by the rules of fairness rather than the strict rule of law. As such, the court found that it was not an error or abuse of discretion for the trial court to fail to include such provisions.
Meet with a Seasoned Florida Attorney
It is not uncommon for a child custody order to be modified, and it is important for parents to understand what they can do to safeguard their parental rights. If you share custody of a child and wish to seek or contest a modification of an existing order, the seasoned Florida child custody attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can assist you in pursuing your desired outcome. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to schedule a conference.