Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Custody

Although Florida parenting plans signed by both parents are considered enforceable contracts, they are subject to approval by the court. If a parent raises a concern about a parenting plan after it is signed, but before the court enters an order ratifying the plan, the court must consider the best interest of the child.

In Pagliaro v. Pagliaro, 4D18-702 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019 February 6, 2019), the mother appealed an order that denied her request to set aside a mediated settlement agreement based on allegations of violence against the father that occurred after the parenting plan was signed. After the parties reached an agreement on timesharing at mediation, the mother learned the father was facing criminal charges for strangulation, criminal threats and violence against his significant other. The mother argued it would not be in the best interest of the child to have unsupervised visits with the child.

At a hearing on the mother’s motion to set aside the agreement, the mother attempted to present testimony in the form of a witness. The court denied the mother the opportunity to present any evidence and instead ruled the criminal charges were hearsay and irrelevant to the child. The court then entered an order ratifying the settlement agreement.

On appeal, the mother argued she was denied due process when the court did not allow her to present evidence as to the best interest of the child. She also argued it was error for the court to ratify the parenting plan without considering the best interest of the child. On both arguments, the appellate court agreed with the mother, holding the trial court abused its discretion and denied the mother due process when it did not allow her to present evidence or have a full hearing on her motion. The court further held, “Here, neither the hearing transcript nor the court's order shows the court considered the best interests of the Minor. On remand, even if the court ultimately ratifies the mediation agreement, the court must independently determine whether the agreement about child custody is in the best interest of the Minor.”

A parenting plan is an important step in a Florida child custody case. Protecting your child’s best interest is the court’s goal. To help achieve that goal, set a consultation with a Miami child custody lawyer to determine what evidence and arguments need to be presented on your behalf.