Florida Court Discusses Substantial Changes in Circumstances in Custody Cases

In divorce matters involving children, the courts will generally issue orders establishing the parties’ timesharing and parental responsibility rights. In doing so, the courts’ sole concern is what is in the best interest of the divorcing couples’ children. As such, custody orders are not easily disturbed, and a parent typically must show a significant change in circumstances to obtain a modification. Recently, a Florida court issued an order discussing what constitutes a change that is substantial enough to warrant an alteration of custody rights, in a matter in which the father appealed the denial of his petition for modification. If you need assistance with a custody matter, it is smart to speak to a capable Florida child custody lawyer to evaluate your options.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the husband had two children together, born in 2010 and 2012. They divorced in 2015, and the final judgment of dissolution granted them shared parental responsibility and equal timesharing. Shortly after the divorce, the wife began a relationship with another man. In 2018, the husband filed a petition for modification of the final judgment, seeking a change in timesharing and parental responsibility due to the wife’s harassment of the husband, domestic violence incidents between the wife and the boyfriend, and the wife’s interference with the husband’s custody rights.

Reportedly, the magistrate determined the husband demonstrated a significant change in circumstances, noting that the children were temporarily removed from the wife’s care in 2017 and that there was a significant history of domestic violence between the wife and the boyfriend. Thus, he recommended that the husband be named as the ultimate decision-maker on issues pertaining to the children’s health and education and to amend the timesharing to grant wife visitation every other weekend. The wife filed exceptions to the magistrate’s report and recommendations, which the circuit court granted. The husband then appealed.

Evidence of a Substantial Change in Circumstances

Under Florida law, a party seeking a modification of a parenting plan must demonstrate that since the original custody order was issued, circumstances have changed in a material and significant way, the change was not reasonably contemplated by the parties, and changing custody is in the best interest of the child.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that the circuit court erred in focusing on the fact that the removal of the children from the wife’s care was temporary, rather than on the overall change in circumstances caused by the wife’s relationship with the boyfriend. Under Florida law, parents engaging in domestic violence constitutes a change in circumstances that supports modification of timesharing arrangements. Thus, the appellate court reversed the circuit court ruling, finding that the husband established a significant change in circumstances as required for modification.

Speak to an Experienced Florida Attorney

The Florida courts generally grant parents shared custody, but in some instances, it is in a child’s best interest for one parent to have greater timesharing or parental responsibility. If you need to establish your rights with regard to child custody, you should seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Florida family law attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can assess the facts of your case and gather the evidence needed to help you pursue your desired result. You can contact us at 800-283-7442 or through the form online to set up a conference.


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