Making Changes to Your Parenting Plan
A final parenting plan is usually the product of countless and painstaking hours of negotiation between parents. After all is said and done each parent will know how they will be spending time with their child and how decisions will be made regarding their care. However, circumstances may come up which require that this carefully crafted plan be altered. In this instance, it may be time to think about making changes to your parenting plan.
Florida law provides that a parenting plan may be changed or “modified” under certain conditions. In order to make an adjustment to parental responsibility, time-sharing, or other terms which govern a parent’s relationship with his or her minor child, the court has to focus foremost on what is in the child’s best interest. The court will also refrain from modifying the parenting plan absent “a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.”
Substantial and Material Change
When examining whether there has been a substantial and material change, the court will look at the differences in the circumstances of the parents as well as the child. The change could be something minor such as a child’s growth and development making a time-sharing agreement less appropriate. It could also be a matter of a parent needing to relocate to another city or something more serious such as one of the parent’s endangering the child while in their care. The general idea is that the court will not make alterations to the plan without there having been some kind of change from when it was initially implemented.
Once it is determined that there has been a qualifying change or event, the court will examine whether any proposed change to the plan is in the child’s best interest. To complete its inquiry the court can look at numerous factors such as the parent’s ability to continue to provide a safe and stable environment, violations of the prior parenting plan terms, parental substance abuse and mental and physical health changes, and the child’s overall safety and well-being. The court has a lot of latitude in looking into the matter of best interest and will always keep the child’s well-being as its primary goal when deciding whether to not to approve a change to a parenting plan.