FAQ. What is a substantial change in circumstances and why does it matter?
A “substantial change in circumstances” is the legal standard a parent must meet in order to have the Court change an existing parenting plan or time-sharing schedule. Section 61.13(3), Florida Statutes, states that a parenting plan or 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. Florida law further provides that the parent seeking to change the parenting plan has an “extraordinary burden” to convince the Court that the parenting plan or time-sharing schedule needs to be changed.
What does that actually mean?
Well, “substantial” and “material” generally mean that the change in circumstances has to be an important change, not something relatively minor. “Unanticipated” means that the change in circumstances was not something the parties could have seen coming at the time the original parenting plan was established. If a parent proves that there has been a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances, then the Court will consider whether a change in the timesharing schedule is in the child’s best interests. The Court will consider all of the factors provided for by sections 61.13(3)(a)-(t), Florida Statutes, to determine whether or not a change in the parenting plan is in the child’s best interests.
Keep in mind, the parent requesting the change in the parenting plan or time-sharing schedule has an “extraordinary burden.” Generally, Florida Courts believe that stability is in the best interests of the children, and so they require a lot of a evidence from a parent before they will change a parenting plan or time-sharing schedule that will cause a significant impact on a child’s life.
The question of whether there has been a “substantial change in circumstances” can be a complicated one, and it really comes down to the facts of a specific case. Before deciding whether or not to bring a modification action to Court, we recommend meeting with an experienced attorney to review the specific facts of your case and make a decision regarding whether you have sufficient evidence to go forward.
Max Factor Law has over 25 years of family law experience in the Tallahassee area. Max has the knowledge and skill required to assist you in navigating your child custody case. Contact Max today to schedule a consultation to review your current situation so that you can move forward with an informed decision.