LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Kristopher Robert Reilly | Dec 5, 2011

Pro Se Litigant Guide to Modifying Custody

The purpose of this guide is to help and assist a Pro Se Litigant in obtaining a custody/parenting plan modification in the State of Florida. The guide shall give a brief overview of the legal requirements to obtain the modification, and shall reference the necessary Supreme Court approved forms to be able to obtain the modification.

ARTICLE 1.GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF CUSTODY IN FLORIDA

Pro Se parties usually have a difficult time understanding various terms used to describe custody arrangements in Florida. Therefore,read and understand these terms to have a better understanding of custody arrangements.

Definitions:

1. Parenting Plan: The parenting plan is the device that determines parental responsibility and timesharing for respective parents.

2. Custody: Pro Se parties generally use the term "custody" very broadly to describe their respective rights to their child. However, a parenting plan addresses two types of rights, which most people would refer to as custody."These two rights are called parental responsibility and timesharing.(detailed explanation given below)

3. Parental Responsibility: Refers to a parent's right to make decisions about their child's life.

4. Timesharing: Refers to a parent's actual physical custody to their child. (Meaning spending actual physical time with their child).

Generally, absent abuse by a parent, a criminal record, or complete derelection of parental duties, a Florida court awards shared parental responsibility whereby one parent has majority timesharing, and the other parent has minority timesharing. The parent with minority timesharing is usually ordered to pay child support to the other parent.

ARTICLE 2: DETERMINE WHETHER THERE ARE AT LEAST REASONABLE GROUNDS FOR A MODIFICATION(ATTORNEY ASSISTANCE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)\* Generally, the parent with minority timesharing wants to petition the court to obtain majority timesharing and to flip child support whereby the other parent becomes responsible for child support.

1. Statutory Requirements:

A. Substantial Change in Circumstances

Briefly explained this is meant to refer to a non temporary but more permanent type of change.

*Do independent research of case law or more preferred get attorney assistance

B. Best interests of the child

A court will determine what is in the best interests of the child by weighing the laundry list of factors contained in Florida Statute 61.13. If prong A of the test is met, the court will determine if the change in circumstances, supports a change in how the factors relate to whether the parent petitioning the court is the better candidate for majority timesharing. For example. assume that when custody was originally ordered, you as the minority timesharing parent lacked a stable home environment, therefore the other parent with a stable home obtained majority timesharing. A few years have passed, and the other parent's house was foreclosed and they are now living in an apartment, you on the other hand have purchased a nice new house. The court will look at this fact and compare it to the factors in the statute to determine what your current living situation is more greatly in the best interests of the child than the other parent. This is just a brief example, there are many other factors to consider.

2. Gather all of the necesary Supreme Court Approved Forms, and carefully fill out the forms. The starting point is a supplemental petition to modify custody and related relief. REMEMBER THIS IS SIMPLY AN EDUCATION GUIDE AND ATTORNEY ASSISTANCE IS HIGHLY ADVISED BECAUSE EACH LEGAL SITUATION REQUIRES CERTAIN ACTION TO TRY TO ACHIEVE THE INTENDED GOAL. The basic form instructions will provide a list of other necessary forms that are needed, however I will try to provide a list for your convenience, OTHER FORMS MAY BE NECESSARY.

3. Checklist of Necessary Forms, MAY NOT BE ALL REQUIRED FORMS, ATTORNEY ASSISTANCE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

A. Civil Cover Sheet, B.Summons, C.Process Server Memorandum, D. Supplemental Petition, E. Notice of Social Security with Children(attach Notice of Confidentiality of Court Filing, F. UCCJEA Affidavit, G. Financial Affidavit, (Short or Long Form Dependent upon income level), H. Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, I. Certificate of Mandatory Disclosure.

B. Make sure to fill out all necessary forms, notarize forms correctly, and double check that the information is indeed correct. IMPORTANT: Make sure that financial affidavit is filed with the Petitition, ( IF YOU FAIL TO DO SO, THE OTHER PARTY'S ATTORNEY WILL USE YOUR FAILURE AS AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE AND IT WILL PROHIBIT/DELAY YOUR MODIFICATION).

C. Child Support Guidelines and Mandatory Disclosure are not required to be filed until 45 days after you have served the documents on the other party. In order to be able to fill out guidelines worksheet, you need to know other party's financial information. Therefore, you may also want to file with the initial petition interrogatories so you know the other party's financial information.

D. Make three copies of all of the documents. File the original documents with the Clerk of Court, arrange for process service of the duplicate, and retain a copy for your records. Be sure to ask process server to file affidavit of service.

E. The other party has 20 days to respond to your petition. Refer to instructions on Pro Se Petition form to determine how to proceed, or IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO CONTINUE AS A PRO SE PARTY, SEEK THE ASSISTANCE OF A QUALIFIED ATTORNEY.

Kristopher R. Reilly, Irving & Reilly, P.L.,Licensed to practice Law in Florida

3733 University Blvd., Suite 212, Jacksonville, Fl. 32217

Telephone:904-309-8461 , Email:[email protected], Website:KRRlaw.com,

LEGAL DISCLAIMER:THIS GUIDE IS MERELY MEANT TO BE REGARDED AS EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL ONLY, REFERENCE TO THIS GUIDE DOES NOT ESTABLISH AN ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP NOR SHOULD IT BE REGARDED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR IN PERSON ADVICE AND CONSULTATION OF AN ATTORNEY, THIS GUIDE IS NOT INTENDED TO BE TAKEN AS LEGAL ADVICE, ALL PARTIES READING THIS GUIDE ARE HIGHLY ADVISED TO PROMPTLY SEEK THE ASSISTANCE OF A QUALIFIED FLORIDA LICENSED ATTORNEY

Legal Advertisement:"The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not solely be based upon advertisements, before you decide please ask for free written information regarding our qualifications and experience"

Additional resources provided by the author

www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/​forms_rules/index.shtml, contains many Pro Se family law forms

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