How Difficult Is It to Modify a Child Custody Order?

If you are like most people, you think that your divorce and all of its provisions become final once the court issues its final divorce decree. This is not always the case, however, especially when it comes to post-divorce issues involving your children. Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes provides for instances in which you can modify your custody arrangement, child support arrangement, etc. after your divorce.

Keep in mind that the court that heard your divorce case retains jurisdiction over your children until such time as one of the following occurs:

  • They reach the age of majority
  • They become legally emancipated
  • They marry
  • They join the military
  • They and you experience a substantial change in circumstances from those which existed at the time the court issued its original custody and parenting time order.

You will, therefore, need to go back to the same court if you wish to modify your custody order.

Changed circumstances

Be prepared to prove to the judge that your changed circumstances represent substantial, material and unanticipated changes, not unimportant ones. Common substantially changed circumstances can include any of the following:

  • Your child, you or your former spouse suffered a serious injury or illness, the results of which likely are permanent.
  • The parent paying child support lost his or her job or took a major cut in pay.
  • You or your former spouse received a promotion requiring him or her to relocate to another state.
  • You or your former spouse experienced a job change that lets him or her spend more time with your child than previously; or, alternatively, decreases the amount of time (s)he can spend with your child.
  • Your child, you or your former spouse has encountered a situation not contemplated in the court’s original custody decree.

Whatever your changed circumstances, also bear in mind that the court will not grant a modification unless the judge believes that your child’s best interests require one.