If you and your ex-spouse share a child, you may have been told your divorce never really ends.
This is a somewhat pessimistic way of putting things, but there is a kernel of truth in the sentiment.
Really, what this means is that you and your ex-spouse don’t stop being parents just because you are no longer married. Most parents want the very best for their kids, which means cooperating with their ex, even when it’s a challenge.
One of the biggest challenges for parents after divorce is handling the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of child custody.
Kids grow up, after all, and their needs change. What happens if your child wishes to make his or her primary residence with your ex? What if one parent has concerns about the other parent’s ability to properly look after the child?
These are often sensitive issues, but the good news is you have options when it comes to changing your parenting plan in Florida.
To protect yourself and your parenting rights, however, you should not attempt to handle a custody modification on your own – even if your ex agrees with your wish to change your agreement. Contact a Jacksonville child custody lawyer to discuss your next steps.
My Ex Agrees to the Change. Do We Need a Court Order?
If you and your ex-spouse agree on the proposed modification to your time-sharing arrangement, you might be tempted to simply change your agreement informally, without going to court or getting anything in writing.
This may sound like a good idea, but it can come back to haunt you down the road. Without a written agreement in place, you have little evidence your ex ever agreed to the change.
Should a dispute arise down the road, your ex could claim you attempted to interfere with his or her custody and visitation rights. Protect yourself by getting a written agreement and filing it with the court.
As long as you both agree to the changes, this is a straightforward and affordable process that protects both parents and helps you avoid future problems.
What If My Ex Does Not Agree to Change Our Custody Agreement?
You may still be able to modify your custody arrangement, even if your ex does not agree to the proposed changes.
If you believe your child is in immediate danger from your ex, you can petition the court to grant you temporary emergency custody.
This is a temporary order, however, and the court must promptly schedule a hearing that allows both you and your ex to present evidence supporting your respective positions regarding your child and your custody and visitation rights.
In the absence of an emergency, the parent who wishes to modify custody must petition the court.
Once you have filed your petition, your case will proceed through the court system, and it’s likely you will have an opportunity to negotiate the proposed changes with your ex prior to a full hearing on the petition.
Under Florida law, the court will only modify custody if there has been a “substantial change” in circumstances that makes the modification in the child’s best interest.
This is a rather vague standard that gives Florida courts broad discretion when it comes to deciding whether a child is better off with a different timesharing arrangement.
Generally, courts will not allow custody modifications simply because one parent wishes it, or because the parents have a tough time getting along.
Although it can be difficult to cooperate with an ex after a hostile, painful divorce, it’s important to do whatever you can to keep a cool head when it comes to your child.
Don’t Wait! Call a Jacksonville Child Custody Lawyer Today
Change isn’t always easy. If you need to modify your child custody agreement, you may be feeling anxious about the likelihood of successfully amending your time-sharing plan.
Get peace of mind by speaking to an experienced Jacksonville child custody lawyer about your case.
- What to Do If You Have Been Served Divorce Papers
- What You Need to Know about Family Law in Florida
- Family Law Timesharing of Children