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Why Do Courts Agree or Refuse to Modify Parenting Plans?


After divorce, your relationship with your ex-spouse might not change as much as you expect.  If you and your ex-spouse treated each other respectfully despite your disagreements and had a relatively peaceful divorce, then co-parenting after divorce probably will not be an unprecedented source of conflict.  Likewise, if your spouse is manipulative, easily loses their temper, and breaks promises, even the best parenting plan is not an ironclad way to protect you against co-parenting drama.  Of course, with a formal parenting plan, you have legal remedies.  For example, you can file a motion for contempt of court if your ex does not return the children to you according to the timetable indicated in the parenting plan.  You should also get the court involved if your ex routinely says negative things about you to your children, whether or not the things your ex says have a basis in fact.  A South Florida child custody lawyer can help you with these problems or any others related to modifying or enforcing a parenting plan.

The Change Test and the Best Interests Test

The Change Test means that, in order to persuade the court to modify a parenting plan, you must show that there is a material change in circumstances that necessitates modifying the parenting plan.  The following are examples of material changes in circumstances:

  • A change to a parent’s living situation, such a remarriage, such that the child would now be living with a stepparent and stepsiblings
  • A change to a parent’s work situation, such as a new job where the parent must work nights or travel out of town frequently
  • A major improvement in the parent’s health or a chronic health problem that started after the parenting plan was finalized
  • The child is much older than he or she was when the parenting plan was finalized; most parenting plans designed for infants need modification when the children are school-aged

The Best Interests Test means that changing the parenting plan would be in the child’s best interest.  Florida courts have adopted the position that frequently changing the parenting schedule is not in children’s best interest.  For example, in Wade v. Hirschman, the parents divorced when their son was very young and had a rotating parenting plan (nine day with Mom, followed by five days with Dad), which was then modified to the father having primary custody and the mother having primary custody.  The father tried to change the parenting plan again to make himself the primary residential parent.  Despite that the mother sabotaged the child’s schooling, extracurricular activities, and mental health counseling and badmouthed the father to everyone they knew, the court ruled that keeping the parenting plan as it was (weekdays with Mom and weekends with Dad) was in the child’s best interests, rather than making another change.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

Showing that a parenting plan modification is in a child’s best interest requires the skill of a family law attorney.  Contact the Boca Raton child custody lawyers at Schwartz | White for a consultation.



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