If there are substantial changes for one parent or the other, there may be grounds for a modification of the original child custody, or parental responsibility, order.
According to the Florida Supreme Court, either parent can request a modification. However, there are certain steps this individual must take, and certain requirements to meet, before the final hearing.
Requesting a modification
The parent requesting the modification should file a petition in the county where the original order transpired after signing it in front of a deputy clerk or notary public. In most circumstances, there is an e-filing requirement, but this is not the case for self-represented individuals. The litigant must also file other forms at the same time, such as a new proposed parenting plan and a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit,
The filing individual must inform the other parent of the petition via personal or constructive service. This individual has 20 days to respond. The court will schedule a final hearing in which a judge will make a ruling on the request.
Grounds for modification
A judge does not grant a modification just because one of the parents is not happy with the current order. The party filing for a change must be able to show a substantial change in circumstances for one or both parents, which may include:
- Serious illness or injury
- Major move
- Addiction development
- Proven history of domestic violence
The modification must also be in the child’s best interest, and FindLaw discusses some of the factors the court considers. These include the age and needs of the child, mental health of all parties, safety and stability of the child, school adjustments, emotional development and the child’s access to other family members, such as siblings and grandparents.