Top 5 Reasons a Judge Will Change Child Custody

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When parents separate or divorce in Florida, the court will issue an initial child custody order outlining the custody arrangement between the parents.

However, child custody orders can be modified by the court if certain conditions are met. As children grow older and family circumstances change, modifications to custody may become necessary.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top five reasons a judge in Florida may decide to change an existing child custody order.

What Does a Judge Consider When Changing Custody in Florida?

For a Florida judge to modify a child custody order, they must find that two facts are true:

  • There has been a substantial change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. This change must be significant and alter the child’s life in a meaningful way.
  • The modification is in the best interest of the child. The judge will evaluate how the change in custody will impact the child’s safety, well-being, and development.

If the judge determines both of these standards are met, they have the authority to issue a modification to the original custody order. Modifications can change the custody arrangement, visitation schedule, decision-making rights, and more.

5 Common Reasons a Judge Will Change Custody

1.    Physical Relocation of the Custodial Parent

When the custodial parent wants to move to a new home, especially out of state, it may provide grounds for the noncustodial parent to seek a child custody modification.

Relocation isn’t an automatic reason to change custody, but the court will factor it into their decision. A judge may alter custody if the move places a significant burden on the noncustodial parent’s ability to exercise their parenting time. Or if the relocation would negatively impact the child’s quality of life.

Custody agreements can restrict a parent’s ability to move without permission from the court or another parent. Violating these terms can justify a change in custody.

2.    Violation of Existing Custody Terms

Parents must follow all terms outlined in the custody order. If one parent repeatedly violates the agreement, the other can petition to modify custody.

For example, if the custodial parent refuses to allow visitation or frequently returns the child late, the noncustodial parent can file for a modification. They’ll need to prove these violations represent a substantial change in circumstances affecting their child’s welfare.

Besides requesting a modification, the parent can also pursue contempt charges for continued violations. An experienced child custody attorney can help gather evidence and build a compelling case for the judge.

3.    Changes in the Child’s Needs

As children grow up, their needs change. What works for an infant may not suit a teenager. The judge can alter custody if one home becomes better suited to meet the child’s needs.

Changes in a child’s mental, physical, or emotional health may also justify modifying custody. For instance, if a child develops a disorder and one parent can provide superior care, custody may switch to that parent.

4.    Changes in a Parent’s Circumstances

Parents’ lives change substantially over time. A promotion, job loss, new relationship, health issues, or change in beliefs can affect their ability to parent.

If one parent can show their situation has changed considerably, and this impacts the child’s welfare, they may request a modification of custody. The court will determine if the changes warrant an adjustment to the arrangement. In some cases, positive life changes like maintaining sobriety or holding a stable job can justify increased custody rights.

5.    Endangerment of the Child’s Safety

Protecting children is the court’s top concern when issuing custody orders. If one parent engages in behaviors that endanger the child, this is grounds for an immediate change in custody.

Endangering behaviors include:

  • Physical, emotional, sexual abuse, or neglect
  • Exposing the child to unsafe people or environments
  • Untreated mental illness that puts the child at risk
  • Chronic drug or alcohol abuse around the child

In urgent cases of suspected child abuse, call the police. Then, speak to a family law attorney about filing for an emergency custody order.

Working with a Florida Family Law Attorney on Custody Changes

Seeking a custody modification without proper legal counsel can be challenging. An attorney can help you understand when you have valid grounds to request changes, file the proper petitions and motions with the court, gather evidence proving your claims, and represent you at hearings to argue for modifications.

Family law attorneys like those at Vollrath Law know Florida custody law inside and out. Their experienced family law attorneys will aggressively fight to protect your rights as a parent. Contact their team today to discuss how they can help modify your child custody agreement.