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By Michael Tupper
Attorney at Law

If you have minor children from a prior marriage or other relationship here in Florida, then you may have a time-sharing agreement with the other parent governing the aspects of raising these children. It may cover such things as the amount of time the child spends with each parent, the child’s primary residence, and which parent the child will be with on major holidays.

For the most part, if each parent acts reasonably, there is no need to ask the courts to enforce or modify an existing time-sharing agreement. However, sometimes, one or both parents engage in conduct that violates the terms of the agreement, often without giving notice to and getting consent from the other parent. Further, circumstances may change in the lives of the parents, which necessitates the modification of the time-sharing agreement. When this occurs, you may need the services of an experienced family law attorney to help guide you through the process.

How Do I Enforce the Time-Sharing Agreement?

The time-sharing agreement is a legally binding contract between the two parents. As such, it is enforceable in Florida court. If you are entitled to time with your child and the other parent does not allow you access to the child or doesn’t abide by the schedule set forth in the agreement, you can file a petition to have the court enforce the specific terms that were agreed to. This will be in the form of a motion that clearly states how the other parent is not in compliance with the agreement. The other parent will need to be served with a copy of the motion, and a hearing will be set at which time the court will hear from both parents regarding the matter.

What Evidence Will I Be Able to Present at the Hearing?

The court will look at both sworn testimony from you, the other parent, and any material witnesses. It will also consider documentary evidence. This can include such things as text messages, emails, voicemails, recorded conversations, and anything that the other parent might claim excused compliance with the time-sharing schedule, such as medical emergencies and school work. The judge will consider the sworn testimony and the documentary evidence in making his or her decision.

What Will Happen if I Prove My Case?

A Florida judge can do a number of different things in a time-sharing agreement case. You may receive additional time to make up for that which you lost due to the other parent’s noncompliance. The other parent may also be required to attend parenting classes or be ordered to perform community service, especially if there is no reasonable excuse for his or her conduct. The law even permits a judge to make other reasonable sanctions the judge deems necessary, and can even hold the other parent in contempt, which can lead to fines and even imprisonment in the most egregious cases. This is often reserved for repeat offenders. Finally, the judge is empowered to award you court costs and attorneys’ fees if you prevail with your motion to enforce.

What Are the Grounds for Modifying a Time-Sharing Agreement?

There are two ways that a time-sharing agreement may be modified. The first is if one parent consistently fails or refuses to comply with the agreement. The judge in an enforcement case could decide to modify the agreement as a form of punishment to the noncomplying parent and as a reward to the petitioning parent. The other way for a modification is if there is a substantial change in circumstances warranting one for an existing agreement.

There are a number of things that may constitute a substantial change in circumstances, such as the child residing in a harmful situation. Others deal with a parent relocating often for work, the criminal conviction of a parent, other grounds for saying a parent is unfit (such as substance abuse), and changes in the health or educational needs of the child. The parent requesting a modification will have to file a petition with the court and will bear the burden of proving that the requested modification is in the best interests of the child. In cases where there is an emergent situation, such as abuse or neglect, a party can file for an emergency ex parte modification hearing, which will be held on an expedited basis without a full hearing attended by the other parent. However, in these cases, the burden of proof is very high. 

If You Need a Time-Sharing Agreement That Needs to Be Enforced or Modified, Contact Our Jacksonville Family Law Attorney

Enforcing or modifying a time-sharing agreement can be a very complicated matter. Because it involves your child and the other parent, it can be emotionally charged as well. The experienced family law attorneys at Tupper Law, P.A. can provide you with the representation you need to enforce or modify your existing time-sharing agreement.

About the Author
Michael Tupper is an experienced and skilled attorney from Jacksonville, FL, and is the driving force behind Tupper Law P.A. With an illustrious career spanning several years, he has established himself as a reliable and skilled legal advisor and representative across various disciplines. Having obtained his license to practice law in the State of Florida in 2004, Michael has consistently catered to the legal needs of Northeast Florida, encompassing Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties. His unwavering commitment to delivering timely, personalized, and proficient services reflects his dedication to providing the highest level of professional assistance.