Modification of Child Custody and Visitation was recently discussed by the Florida Court of Appeal in a case captioned Ezra v. Ezra. In this case the father challenged the decision of the trial court granting the mother exclusive decision-making responsibility for the children’s medical and educational needs. In this case, the parents married in 2004. They had two children. They separated the day after their 6th wedding anniversary. The mother alleged abuse by the father during the course of the marriage, as well as extreme disciplinary conduct toward the children. In 2011, the lower court ratified an agreed parenting plan which granted the parties shared parental responsibility for the healthcare and education needs of the children.
Subsequent to the entry of the final judgment, the father’s financial situation deteriorated. The father’s child support payments diminished. The children were historically enrolled in a private religious school. Due to the diminution of the father’s income, the mother sought financial aid for the children. The father allegedly impeded the mother’s efforts to obtain financial aid for the children. Additionally, the father allegedly interfered with medical treatment for one of the children. The mother sought modification of parental responsibility. The trial court granted the mother’s request for unilateral decision-making authority for the children’s healthcare and educational needs.
The Florida Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling and stated that the modification of custody and visitation and parental responsibility requires the showing of a material, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances that was not reasonably contemplated when the original judgment was entered. The children’s best interest is the Court’s primary consideration.
The Florida Court of Appeal ruled that modification was appropriate in this matter due to the father’s hinderance of the children’s academic progress, happiness and stability. This ruling was based upon the father’s refusal to assist in obtaining financial aid for the children, and the father’s interference with one of the children’s medical treatment. The Court found that the father created a destabilizing influence in the children’s lives. Therefore, the Court granted the mother exclusive responsibility for the children’s healthcare and educational needs.