by Rochael from Pensacola, Florida, Escambia County
Husband & wife, not divorced yet (married 10 years separated for 4 years); court ordered shared custody. One week with her, one week with the father. I pay child support for each of the two girls.
She has never been able to hold a job more than a month or two and is now supposedly going back to school.
Three months after she somehow managed to get an apartment (with no job in over 2 years) she is being evicted with damages so she will have nowhere stable to keep these kids (both are in elementary school) and it's now nearly winter.
She has a dependency to pain medications and now also methadone. She falls asleep at inopportune times & has had a couple of traffic infractions likely because of it (hitting parked cars)and is the sole reason we have received a letter from the school board advising the girls are in violation of the school attendance policy.
She is a hypochondriac who enjoys the attention of being sick and getting different doctors to over prescribe antibiotics to the girls; thus weakening their immune system.
Yes I am biased, but even looking at it from a purely rudimentary standpoint; we can provide for the girls without a problem. Whereas she cannot and I have to pay her support to enable her to take care of them the little bit she does. I live with my girlfriend/fiancée of 3 years, who contributes money, time, emotional support and doesn't try to replace their biological mother.
My basic question is, what does it take for the State of Florida to consider a mother 'unfit' or at least lessen the amount of time she is allowed to spend with the girls and negatively influence their lives? Is eviction enough to grant a temporary hiatus on the visitation?
Answer to Florida Child Custody Question
The basis of all custody determinations is the "best interests of the children".
By any stretch of reasoning, it cannot be in the best interests of the children to be evicted from their home and have no place to live.
My suggestion is that you file a Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child Custody Time-Sharing Schedule and Other Relief.
Have a look at our web-powered instruction for the Modification of Custody & Time Sharing, Form 12.905(a).
Within that petition you will state your reasons for a change in your custody and time-sharing arrangement. A modification must be based on "a substantial change in circumstances".
The changed circumstances can be relative to any or all of the parties -- you, your ex, or the children. I suggest that you state the changed circumstances as your concerns have been stated here:
• daughters may soon be homeless due to the eviction;
• daughters have not attended school regularly;
• mother has a substance abuse problem; and
• whatever other circumstances are pertinent.
There are other forms that must be filed along with the Supplemental Petition. Most importantly, you must also file a Parenting Plan to change your custody and vistitation schedule.
I suggest that you file a Supervised Safety Focused Parenting Plan; and request that your daughters come to live with you and your fiancee the majority of the time. Shared parental responsibility remains in place insofar as certain decision making, and you can request to allow or disallow visitation or request supervised visitation only.
From what you've said in your question you have ample argument to have your custody time-sharing arrangement modified. It is likely easier to request the court to modify your order based on these changed circumstances, than try to prove a charge of unfitness even if she may be unfit.
The end result will likely be the same. Years down the road, she may reform, and you will have the knowledge that you gave your ex the benefit of the doubt -- and protected your daughters at the same time. These forms and others can be found on the Florida Supreme Court's website at www.flcourts.org.
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