While a child custody and visitation order is not written in stone, changing it is not necessarily easy. Florida courts will change these orders only if you have a "substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances" and the change is the best interests of the child.
In other words, just because you now want primary residential custody of your children, or a greater share of custody, does not mean the court will grant it. Here are some examples of substantial, material and unanticipated changes in circumstances:
- An older child wants to live with a different parent
- A parent needs to relocate for job reasons or to be closer to family support
- A child who was performing well in school is now performing poorly
- Your ex's home environment has changed, resulting in unsafe conditions for your child
- You ex has started using drugs or alcohol, placing your child at risk
- Your ex abuses your child
- Your child is exposed to domestic violence in your ex's home
- Your ex has become an unfit parent due to mental illness
An experienced family law attorney can advise you if your circumstances would be considered "substantial, material and unanticipated" by the court. An attorney can also help you present the most compelling case for a change to the court.
When deciding whether to modify child custody (known as time-sharing in Florida), courts are more concerned about what is best for your child rather than what you want as a parent. As a result, your reasons for seeking a change in child custody should focus on what is best for your child, not what you want.