Modifying a Final Judgment as Related to Time-Sharing
Before looking at the actual modification process it is important to understand the terms Final Judgment and Time-Sharing.
Final Judgment refers to the finished document signed by the judge overseeing the couples divorce or as it is now called, dissolution of marriage. It can also be the final document for separating, non-married parents seeking to have a court order defining the time-sharing of children resulting from their union. It will spell out exactly how much time each parent should have with their child/children and when this time should occur.
Time-Sharing, formally called child custody, determines how much time and when each parent will be with their child/children and usually includes over-night stays. This is part of what is called joint custody, which is when both parents are adjudicated fit and desiring to spend time with their child/children. Solo custody is where one parent is awarded complete custody, both physical and legal so there is no time-sharing to be considered. States differ in their approach to time-sharing but a good example is Florida where the focus is on what is best for the child, not necessarily the parents. The judge will take into consideration a number of factors which in Florida are detailed in Florida Statute 61:13 (3). Here there are 20 guidelines to be addressed by a judge when setting the parameters of time-sharing.
However time often changes such things as living arrangements, location of dwelling, ability to care for children due to health issues or change in job requirements, or even the needs of children as they grow older. What can a parent do to change or modify the existing ruling on time-sharing?
Again, as each state has it’s own process to modify time-sharing, the state of Florida will be used as the example. Before pursuing a modification to time-sharing there are basic determinations, which must be met. If these are met as stated in the “when to use” portion of the Instructions For Florida Supreme Court Law Form 12.905 (a) (the form to be filed asking for modification of time-sharing) “substantial, material, and unanticipated changes in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interest of the child” it can be determined if a modification of time-sharing is appropriate. It is highly beneficial to use an experienced Family Law Attorney to work with you, as there are so many factors to be considered.
When the basics of need for time-share modification are met, the form 12.905 (a), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form must be filled out, notarized, filed with the court, and a copy served to the other parent. The parent served has 20 days to respond. If both parties agree in total and the mandatory disclosure has been filed the request to modify is considered uncontested and a final hearing can be set, making sure both parents have been properly notified of the date and time.
However, when parties disagree, the action then becomes contested and a trial will be needed to determine the final outcome. Some jurisdictions require mediation prior to setting a trial date, and a mandatory disclosure is required of both parties as well. There are many ways a modification can be adjudicated and with all the possible twists and turns it is rarely wise for an individual to attempt a modification of time-sharing on their own.
A final note: sometimes a court appointed guardian such as a grandparent will be the care giver involved in a time-sharing modification.
Schedule a free in house consultation with Attorney Grant Gisondo to find out more. Call now at (561) 530-4568.