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The proper custody of a minor child of divorced parents is a proper subject for judicial consideration at any time by the court, which granted the decree of divorce. But it is likewise the law that a decree in a divorce suit, fixing the custody of a child of the parents being divorced, whether based on a stipulation entered into by the parties and approved by the court, or whether entered by the court after adversary hearing and determination, of a contested issue respecting the matter is, nevertheless, a final decree of the court on the conditions then existing, and is not to be materially amended or changed afterward, unless o n altered conditions shown to have arisen since the decree, or because of material facts bearing on the question of custody and existing at the time of the decree, but which were unknown to the court and then only for the welfare of the child. The proper rule is that a decree in a divorce case providing for the custody and care of a child of the marriage is to be regarded as res adjudicate as of the time of the decree, but attributing such effect to it does not prevent a subsequent adjudication in the same jurisdiction touching the custody and maintenance of the child. Fla. Ann. Cas. 894 (1916).
Following their divorce, the parties were bound by a custody order for their only child, which resulted from a stipulation signed by both parties. The mother, who had remarried, sought modification of the decree, which was granted giving her full custody. The father challenged the modification, contending that the stipulation was a contract that could not have been changed without good cause.
Was the modification of the decree, granting the mother full custody of the child proper under the circumstances?
The court reversed in part and held that the final decree was res adjudicata as of the time of the decree, but did not prevent, upon a proper basis being laid, a subsequent adjudication touching the care and maintenance of the child involved, when facts and conditions arose which warranted and justified such modification. The court held that the trial court produced an erroneous conception of the relative rights of parents, as well as on a mistaken view as to the issue that is required to be decided. The trial court erred in so completely altering the original decree to deprive the father of reasonable visitation.