Divorce is often particularly difficult for military families. Due to the demands of serving our country, military divorce cases often involve parental relocations and the need to anticipate fture modifications of child custody orders.
When a service member is ordered to a new duty station, the service member will typically be able to demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances sufficient to justify a modification. A possible exception, however, would be the case where the final judgment was entered at a time when the service member knew about the prospective orders or change of duty station.
A petition for modification would need to show that the child's best interests would benefit, taking into account:
- The moral fitness of each parent.
- The mental and physical health of each parent.
- The demonstrated ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities, including the extent to which those responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to those of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pendency of litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from making disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
When an experienced military divorce attorney prepares a parenting plan for a service member or spouse, the attorney should discuss whether to include a long-distance time-sharing schedule as a default in the event that the service member moves out of the jurisdiction. This anticipated modification of the time-sharing schedule would apply until such time that the court has an opportunity to establish a new time-sharing schedule. One reasons this default schedule might be important is because Florida law does not favor temporary relief in post-judgment modification cases, except where there is an actual demonstrated emergency.
The final divorce judgment may also provide that a change of duty station will constitute a substantial change in circumstances notwithstanding the existence of the default long-distance time-sharing schedule. Without this language, the local parent could argue that the move was known to the parties prior to the entry of the final judgment.
We understand that nothing matters more than the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being of your children. We empathize with our clients and share their belief that children are the number one priority. We can help you navigate the agonizing decisions as to how children will share time with each of parent following a divorce.
If you have questions concerning military relocation or military divorce in Florida, please contact Law Offices of Scott Davis, P.A. to discuss your rights.
Child custody issues are especially difficult in military divorce cases. We can help you make sense of your rights when the situation otherwise appear out of your control.
Please continue reading to learn more about us. If you or someone you care about is facing a military divorce or family law case, we can help. Please do not hesitate to call us today at (813) 251-6222 or contact us online.