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Interesting review of a very important case about substance-abuse and custody in Florida

Posted by LEISA WINTZ | Apr 06, 2024 | 0 Comments

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We will be breaking this super interesting case about substance-abuse and custody in Florida. 

Daniello v. Settle (decided by the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District  in 2022)

Case Overview

Parties Involved:

Alexander Charles Daniello , the appellant (referred to as "the Father"). Kristy Marie Settle, the appellee (referred to as "the Mother").


  • The parties were involved in a paternity case.
  • An **agreed final judgment** regarding custody was signed on **December 19, 2017**.

Issue on Appeal:

  • The primary issue on appeal relates to the Mother's **sobriety**.
  • The Mother, who had been sober for **four years**, petitioned to modify the court's custody order, arguing that her sobriety represented a **material change in circumstances**.
  • The court agreed and modified the custody order.

Legal Principles:

  • Florida law requires a **substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances** to permit modification of custody arrangements.
  • The substantial change must be one that was **not reasonably contemplated** at the time of the original judgment.

Court's Decision:

  • The Mother's sobriety, achieved just **two weeks after the entry of the agreed final judgment**, was not a substantial change not reasonably contemplated at the time of the original judgment.
  • The court erred when it modified the final judgment based solely on the Mother's improved life circumstances.

Analysis and Implications

The case of **Daniello v. Settle** underscores the delicate balance courts must strike when considering modifications to custody orders. While sobriety is undoubtedly significant, the court's decision highlights the need for a thorough examination of whether the change is truly substantial and unanticipated.

As we reflect on this case, we recognize that legal judgments impact the lives of families and children. The pursuit of justice requires courts to weigh competing interests, including stability, well-being, and parental rights.

Ultimately, **Daniello v. Settle** serves as a reminder that legal decisions should be grounded in both legal principles and the unique circumstances of each case. It prompts us to consider the broader implications of sobriety, personal growth, and the best interests of children within the context of family law.

*Disclaimer: This blog article provides an overview of the case and does not constitute legal advice.

About the Author


Leisa Wintz originally began her career as a marriage and family therapist. Ms. Wintz went on to attend law school and started practicing family law in 2009. However, she quickly realized that many family law practices lacked the empathy and compassion she believed were necessary in order to achi...


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