Modifying Custody Agreements in Florida: How, Why, and When it is Possible
Child custody agreements are legally binding arrangements that dictate the custody and visitation rights of parents after a divorce or separation. However, life is dynamic, and circumstances can change over time, necessitating modifications to these agreements. In Florida, parents can seek modifications when it is in the best interests of the child, but certain criteria must be met. At HAWM Law we help our clients through every step of custody modifications.
When Can You Seek a Custody Modification?
Florida law recognizes that changes in circumstances may require modifications to child custody arrangements. Common reasons to seek custody modifications include:
- Substantial Change in Circumstances: One of the most common grounds for modification is a substantial change in circumstances that directly affects the child’s well-being. This could include a parent’s relocation, a change in a parent’s work schedule, or a significant change in the child’s needs.
- Child’s Best Interests: The court always prioritizes the best interests of the child. If it is determined that a modification would better serve the child’s well-being, the court may grant it.
- Parental Agreement: If both parents agree to the modification, the court is more likely to approve it, provided it aligns with the child’s best interests.
How to Initiate a Custody Modification
To modify a custody agreement in Florida, you will generally follow these steps.
- First, it is always best to seek advice from an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand your rights, assess your case, and guide you through the process. At HAWM Law, we are here for you and your family every step of the way.
- Second, once you have legal representation, you will file a petition for modification with the family court in the same jurisdiction where the original custody order was issued. This document outlines the changes you are requesting and the reasons for those changes.
- Third, to effectuate the petition that was filed with the court, the other parent must be notified. You must serve notice to the other parent, informing them of the modification request and providing them an opportunity to respond.
In many cases, Florida courts require parents to attempt mediation before proceeding to a trial. Mediation involves both parents working with a neutral third party to attempt to reach an agreement. If mediation is unsuccessful or not required, the court will schedule a hearing to review the case. Both parents will present their arguments, and the judge will determine whether the modification is in the child’s best interests.
Finally, if the court approves the modification, it will issue a new custody order reflecting the changes.