A Modification of Child Custody and Visitation case was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal. In a case captioned Light v. Kirkland the mother appealed a judgment modifying her timesharing schedule with her child. The original divorce decree provided that the mother was to have timesharing with her child during the week, and the child was to spend three weekends per month with her father. The father filed a Supplemental Petition to Modify Timesharing. The trial court granted the father’s Supplemental Petition, and awarded the father timesharing during the week. This modification required the child to transfer to a new school.
The Florida Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision. The Appellate Court pointed out that in order to modify custody and visitation, there must be a material, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances subsequent to the time that the divorce decree was entered. Once the trial court finds that there has been a material, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances, the trial court must determine whether the proposed modification is in the child’s best interests.
The fact that parents are unable to effectively communicate, or have an acrimonious relationship is an insufficient in and of itself to grant a modification. However, where parents have an acrimonious relationship that causes a child’s school performance to deteriorate, this may constitute a material, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances that warrants a modification of timesharing.