Looking to file a "Petition to Modify your time-sharing/parenting plan" agreement/Final Judgment? You may want to think again...
by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 01/27/16
More often than not, you will have parties who were divorced or had a paternity issue resolved in the court, look to modify their time-sharing agreement in the state of Florida (St. Petersburg, FL or any other city in this state). In order to do this, you must file what is known as a "Supplemental Petition to Modify Time-sharing/Parenting Plan." From a legal standpoint, in order to have the appropriate legal grounds to prevail in this type of action, you must prove that there has been a "substantial change in circumstances since the execution of the agreement setting time-sharing in the final dissolution judgment." Let's look at one case that clearly demonstrates the courts' opinion on what they do not deem a "legitimate change in circumstances."
In Reed v. Reed (No. 4D14-4012), the former wife/mother in a divorce case appealed an order that granted the former husband's supplemental petition for modification of time-sharing. The trial court determined that there had been a substantial chance in circumstances since the execution of the agreement setting time-sharing in the final dissolution judgment, as the father had "stabilized his life and wanted more time with his child."According to the appellate court, this was insufficient to constitute a substantial change in circumstances. The appellate court determined that not only was there no change in circumstances, but that it was not in the child's best interest to modify the final judgment.
To quickly sum up what transpired on the trial court level regarding the supplemental petition to modify parenting plan/time-sharing agreement, the Magistrate's ruling in granting the father's petition was that the father had "stabilized his life," and that it was in the child's best interest to have overnight time-sharing with the father. "Demonstrating to the court that there has been a sufficient substantial change in circumstances places an "extraordinary burden" on the party seeking to modify the custody order." Chamberlain v. Eisinger, 159 So. 3d 185, 189 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) (quoting Sanchez, 45 So. 3d at 61-62). The appellate court determined that the trial court erred by finding that the mere stabilization of the father's life constituted a substantial change in circumstances, as both the father's allegations and his proof were insufficient. Furthermore, they noted that just because the father now has a relatively stable home environment is, in and of itself, inadequate to constitute a substantial change in circumstances. See Bartolotta v Bartolotta, 687 So. 2d 1385, 1387 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997); see generally Miller v. Miller, 671 So. 2d 849, 852 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996).
What should you surmise out of all of this? You do not have legal grounds to change your parenting plans, if you have "improved your lifestyle" since entry of the final judgment. Please do not get me wrong, as that is great. However, be wary of any attorney (in Florida and/or in the St. Petersburg area) that you approach with this reasoning as to why you should have your time-sharing agreement changed that agrees with you and takes your money. It will be a losing battle, and an expensive one at that. If you are looking to modify your time-sharing/parenting plan (Final Judgment), please do not hesitate to reach out to us at our St. Petersburg, FL office. We will give you our honest assessment of whether you have a legitimate chance or not of having your time-sharing schedule amended. As your St. Petersburg, FL attorney, my job is to stay up on current law to give you the best chance of succeeding in your case. We offer free over the phone consultations and low cost in-office consultations, in our St. Petersburg office.