By Kenneth V. Mundy, Esq.
After a divorce with minor children or an action for the determination of paternity in Florida, a court will issue a child support order. The child support order will clearly identify the financial responsibilities each parent must meet for their children’s food, education, housing, healthcare, and other living expenses. As you and your co-parent’s life circumstances evolve, however, either of you may experience a change that may require an adjustment to the amount of child support that needs to be paid. For example, one of you may lose your job, or more positively, one of you may receive a major promotion. To adjust the child support, you both may stipulate to the adjustment or you ask the court to intervene. This article primarily focuses on what happens when you and your co-parent cannot agree. Generally, you are required to go back to court to effectuate a change to the child support order.
Before a court can grant a child support modification in Florida, you and/or your co-parent must experience a substantial change in circumstances. Typically, the party enduring the change must prove that the change falls within one of three following areas to request and obtain a modification to the child support obligation.
1.) Changes in Income
If you or your co-parent experience a drastic increase or decrease in income, there’s a high likelihood the court will modify the current child support obligation. Florida child support statutes allow for modification of child support when said modification would result in a change in support of at least 15% or $50.00, whichever is greater. Therefore, if you experience a significant raise in income or if you are one of the countless Florida residents that were terminated from employment or laid off due to the coronavirus, your child support order can potentially be modified upward or downward.
2.) Changes in Expenses
If there is a change to your or your co-parent’s childcare expenses, modification of the child support order may be warranted. There are several ways a child’s expenses may increase or decrease. Here are some examples, but as with many things in the law, this list is not exhaustive.
a. A medical diagnosis that requires ongoing care;
b. Enrollment in a private school;
c. Changes in daycare costs or frequency; or
d. An increase or decrease in the children’s health
Finally, a change in the parents’ expenses may also qualify as a change in circumstances warranting modification. For instance, if your co-parent is obligated to pay you alimony, but this alimony obligation is later modified or terminates, modification of child support may result. Other examples include:
a. The addition of a child support order for another
b. A sudden increase or decrease in payroll taxes; or
c. A major increase or decrease in one or both
parents’ health insurance expenses.
3.) Changes in Custody
Changes in custody can also trigger a modification of the child support order. Consider the situation where both parents have 50% of the overnights with their children. If one parent consistently fails to exercise their timesharing, and the other parent can prove it, the court may adjust the child support amount accordingly to reflect the timesharing arrangement that is actually being followed by the parents. Similarly, if the parents officially change the custody agreement, they can also request that child support be modified based on their new agreement.
Before a child support obligation can be modified in Florida, the parent seeking modification must file a Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child Support. This petition must be served on the other parent, who then will have 20 days to file an answer.
The case then proceeds, assuming the parties cannot agree, to a trial, just like the initial divorce or paternity action. In most cases, the parties are obligated to attend mediation before the case can progress to trial.
The process of modifying child support can be straightforward if both parties can amicably reach an agreement. In many cases, however, child support issues can become very complicated, very fast. Therefore, it is essential to work with a skilled family law attorney that will protect and advocate for your best interests.
If you experienced a substantial change of circumstances that may warrant modification of your or your co-parent’s child support obligation, it is imperative that you have the guidance of an experienced family law attorney to assist. The family law attorneys at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A., are Certified Financial Litigators and regularly help clients navigate through complex child support issues. To further discuss the facts and circumstances of your specific situation, please contact the law firm of Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A., at (239) 649-6555. We look forward to hearing from you.
Kenneth V. Mundy, Esq., associate attorney with the law firm of Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A., graduated summa cum laude from Ave Maria School of Law in 2016. Mr. Mundy is a Certified Financial Litigator specializing in family and marital law, including but not limited to, complex divorces, child custody disputes, child support and alimony issues, paternity matters and domestic violence proceedings. Mr. Mundy also represents community associations located throughout Southwest Florida. Mr. Mundy was originally born in New Jersey and moved to Naples, Florida with his parents and older sister in 1997. Mr. Mundy is presently engaged to long time Naples native, Taylor Morgan, who attended the Community School of Naples and thereafter obtained her undergraduate degree from Florida Gulf Coast University. Mr. Mundy is also very involved in the community as he is on the Boards of Director for Meals of Hope and the Naples Junior Chamber, both of which are not-for-profit entities. For more information, see www.wpl-legal.com.
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