Modification of child custody and visitation orders require a substantial, material change of circumstances since the Court’s prior custody decision. Additionally, the movant must demonstrate that the children’s best interest justify a change in custody. In Chamberlain v. Eisinger, the Florida Court of Appeal had a case before it in which a judgment was entered in Maryland. The Maryland trial court gave the Mother custody of the four children. After the divorce was granted the Father moved to Florida. In 2008, the Mother and Father agreed that the Father would have custody of the oldest daughter. In 2009, the Mother and Father agreed that the Mother would have custody of the youngest daughter and the two sons. In 2010, the Mother moved to Florida. The same month that the Mother moved to Florida, the trial court in Maryland entered a new order specifying times and dates for visitation. However, the new order was based upon the premise that the Mother and the younger children were living in Maryland.
In the summer of 2010, the Father filed a Supplemental Petition for modification of child custody and visitation. The trial court granted the Father’s petition finding that there had been a substantial change in circumstances since the final judgment was entered. The Florida Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The Florida Court of Appeal held that in order to grant a modification of child custody, the moving party is required to show that the circumstances have substantially and materially changed since the original order was granted and must also show that the modification would be in the children’s best interests. Additionally, the change in circumstances may not have been contemplated by the parties. There is an extraordinary burden on the party seeking to modify time-sharing to demonstrate a sufficient change of circumstances. The purpose of this high burden is to discourage parents from continually disrupting their children’s lives by repeatedly initiating custody proceedings. Although the burden is high, it does not preclude a modification of custody when there has been a significant change of circumstances and it is in the best interests of the children. In deciding whether to modify timesharing, the best interests of the children is the primary consideration. The trial court should consider evidence concerning each of the statutory time-sharing factors in reaching a determination as to the best interests of the children. Finally, the Florida Court of Appeal stated that a parent has a duty to encourage and nurture the relationship between the child and the other parent.
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