As your child gets older, his or her needs will change. Your schedule will change as well. Time-share arrangements that you developed with the other parent when your child was very young, for example, may not work any longer as your child gets older.
Thankfully, you have the option to change your visitation schedule to suit your child’s needs. This article briefly explains how you can do go about this process.
The Current Order for Visitation and Custody Arrangements
Although most people think of custody and visitation as interchangeable in Florida, they are two distinct concepts. A visitation schedule is an actual date and time that you will have the child.
Child custody, on the other hand, dictates where the child will live and who will make most of the big decisions in the child’s life. These decisions may include education, religion, and healthcare. Florida law does not use the term “child custody,” instead the term is “time-sharing.”
The parenting plan that you develop with the other parent will dictate your visitation schedule. If you want to change visitation, you must modify the parenting plan. However, that does not mean that you are altering the full child custody arrangement.
Changing Visitation Schedules Informally
Changing custody is much harder than adjusting the visitation schedule. In most situations, you can change your visitation schedule informally with the other parent. Changes like using different days of the week or adjusting hours are generally minor enough that parents can agree to these changes without involving the Court. Changes that are not meant to be permanent usually will not warrant a change in the parenting plan.
However, in situations where the parents do not get along or are unwilling to compromise, involving the Court may be necessary. This is also true in cases where one parent will not adhere to the court-order visitation schedule.
You should also keep in mind that even if you and the other parent have an informal agreement to change the schedule, violations of the new calendar are not enforceable in Court. To modify the parenting plan permanently, and to be able to use the Court to enforce it, you must formally alter the schedule with the Court. In most circumstances, if the parents bring an agreed upon modified plan, the Court will automatically approve it.
Requesting a Modification Through the Court
If the other parent does not agree to change the visitation schedule informally, you can petition the Court and ask for a change. The Court will only “force” a change upon the other parent if the petitioning parent can show that there is a good reason for an alternation. This “good reason” is usually because circumstances have changed. These circumstances may include the following:
- A job change or relocation has occurred, which makes it difficult to adhere to the current plan
- The child’s emotional or developmental needs have changed
- An older child wants to spend more or less time with a particular parent
- Concerns about the stability of one parent’s home
- The parent has violated the custody order
- There is evidence of child or domestic abuse
The test in virtually any family law issue is what will be in the best interests of the child. If the Court determines that increased (or decreased) visitation will benefit the child, then a visitation modification is likely to be granted.
If you are considering requesting a visitation modification, having an experienced family law attorney on your side will be very helpful. Contact us today for more information.