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Can I Modify My Child Custody Arrangement Without Going to Court in Orlando, FL?
Things change as your child grows up. Certain life events can result in the need to change a child custody order or parenting plan. In most cases, you and your child’s other parent can agree to modify your custody arrangement without going to court.
However, it is always best to let your Orlando child custody lawyer know that you and your co-parent want to modify the parenting plan. Then, your attorney can draft a written agreement for you and your ex-partner to sign.
Your lawyer will file the signed agreement with the family court. The written agreement filed with the court prevents either parent from claiming they did not agree to the custody changes at a later time.
Reasons to Modify a Child Custody Agreement in Florida
No one can predict the future. Therefore, knowing how changes could impact your parenting agreement is impossible.
Examples of circumstances that could cause you to change your child custody agreement include:
The non-custodial parent has now moved closer to the child
The child wants to join or participate in extracurricular activities that change visitation schedules
When parents can agree to modify custody arrangements, it makes it easier for everyone. However, when a parent refuses to agree to change the parenting agreement, you might need to take them to court to force them to accept the changes.
What Should I Do If My Ex-Partner Refuses to Modify the Child Custody Agreement?
Sometimes, a parent refuses to change a parenting plan. For example, the parent might not like the proposed changes, or they could be stubborn and vengeful. Whatever the reason for refusing to cooperate, it necessitates going to court to change a custody agreement.
Your attorney will file a motion to modify the parenting plan with the court. Absent an immediate emergency, the court will schedule a hearing. Your attorney must serve the motion and notice of hearing on your ex-partner.
If you need to change your custody plan because of an emergency, your lawyer can request an ex parte hearing. At the hearing, you must prove that the relief requested is necessary to protect the child. However, even if the judge grants temporary custody, a full hearing will be scheduled to hear arguments from both sides.
Changing a custody order or parenting plan requires you to show that there has been a substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances. The term “substantial” does not have one definite meaning. However, it generally means something permanent or nearly permanent.
Furthermore, you must prove that the change was “unanticipated.” That does not mean you did not foresee the change before it occurred. However, it does mean that you could not reasonably foresee or anticipate the change when the court ordered the current custody arrangement.
What Is in the Child’s Best Interest?
As with your initial child custody order, the judge determines whether to change custody based on the best interests of your child. Judges consider the preferences and wishes of the parties, but the child’s best interests are the priority and the basis for all custody decisions.
Florida Statute §61.13 states that the best interest of the child is the primary consideration in all parenting plans and time-sharing schedules.
The court must evaluate factors affecting the child’s welfare and interests, including:
Each parent’s ability to cooperate and facilitate a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
The moral fitness, physical health, and mental health of each parent
The ability of each parent to anticipate and provide for the child’s needs
The length of time the child has been in a stable home and the desire to maintain continuity
The geographic feasibility of the parenting plan
The reasonable preferences of the child
The child’s home, community, and school record
The parent’s ability to provide consistent routines, including homework, bedtimes, meals, discipline, etc.
The capacity of each parent to be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities
The judge may consider all factors relevant to determining the child’s best interests. When your child’s other parent refuses to agree to modify child custody, you must have a compelling argument to convince the judge it is in the child’s best interest to force the modifications. An Orlando child custody lawyer can help you build the case for modifying parenting plans.