6 steps to changing your time-sharing schedule

As children get older and circumstances change, parents often request from the Court a change in their parenting plan. Hiring an attorney for a modification of a parenting plan can be expensive for two main reasons. First, the case will take a significant amount of time (eight to twelve months, easily). Second, the burden is much higher to change the parenting plan than it was to originally create it. These six steps will lead you through the Florida law on modification of time-sharing plans, but heed this warning – these are no easy six steps.

In Florida, we look to Fla. Stat. §61.13 and the case of Korkmaz v. Korkmaz, 200 So.3d 263 (Fla.1st DCA 2016) for guidance on how to change your parenting plan or time-sharing schedule that was previously ordered by the Court. Florida Statute §61.13 provides the law on what a parent must show in order to change (modify) their current court-ordered time-sharing plan. The statute says that “a parenting plan or a time-sharing schedule may not be modified without a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.” This means that to change your current court-ordered time-sharing plan you have to show BOTH:

  • a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances;

AND

  • and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.

The statute goes further and provides factors which the court will review in order to determine the best interests of the child. These factors include the school record of the child(ren), the demonstrated capacity of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child(ren), and evidence of domestic violence. The Court will look at these factors from the date of the original parenting plan until the date of the filing of the petition.

The Court wants to know – what changed since that original parenting plan?

Here are the six steps to changing your time-sharing schedule:

  1. First, look at your original parenting plan signed by the Judge/Court.
  2. Second, do you have a change in circumstance since that date?
  3. Third, is the change substantial, material, and unanticipated?
    1. Substantial means that it is a considerable change
      • An example of a substantial change is when the other parent moves or relocates to the state that you are in.
      • However, a change in the other parent’s job is most likely not substantial.
    2. Material means that it is an important change, such that if this change did not happen, you would not be seeking a modification
      • An example of a material change is when the other parent is making time-sharing difficult in the totality of circumstances. If the other parent changed the child’s school, counselor, and doctor without notifying you, this may be a material change.
      • Usually, annoyance is and alleged harassment is not enough, by itself, to warrant a change in the schedule.
    3. Unanticipated means that you did not expect for this change to occur
      • A child getting older is not unanticipated, because at the time of the original parenting plan you knew the child would get older.
      • Something that may be considered by the Court to be unanticipated is one parent’s sudden change from co-parenting to being inflexible with the schedule. If you were originally co-parenting with the other parent and something changed, this could be one step towards a modification of the schedule.
    4. Fourth, what would you want the schedule change to look like?
      • Are you asking for one additional day per month? Are you looking to change from the parent who has less time-sharing to the one who has more time-sharing?
      • Find a blank calendar and write down how you want the new schedule to look.
    5. Fifth, is the modification in the best interests of the child(ren)?
      • Review the factors listed in Florida Statute §61.13(3)(a) through (t).
      • Is this change the best for the child(ren)? If you are seeking this change because it is better for you, the Court’s will most likely not grant the modification.
    6. Last, would not changing the schedule be detrimental to the child(ren)?
      • You must also show the Court that if the court does not change the schedule, it will cause harm to your children.

Modifications are extremely tricky and it may be beneficial to you to meet with a family law attorney to discuss these six steps. A consultation or assessment may better prepare you to make the decision of whether to pursue a modification and your likelihood of success.

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