The amount of child support a parent needs can change over time, as can a parent’s ability to pay it. For various reasons, either parent may ask the Florida family courts to modify a previous child support order. However, the court won’t grant all requests, so it’s imperative that both parents know the rules for a child support modification.
Orlando Family Team understands that both a parent’s and child’s financial needs change over time and that this can affect the amount of child support a court will expect a parent to pay. If you believe the child support order in your case should be modified, or you don’t agree with the other parent’s request to modify it, we can help.
When Can Child Support Be Modified?
Recall from the original court decision that child support is based on a calculation made according to the Florida Child Support Guidelines. This calculation is based on the parents’ circumstances as they existed at the time of the original court hearing, including their respective incomes. In other words, the original court order was like a snapshot in time, one that captured several different factors as they were during that initial hearing.
Therefore, if one of these factors changes at a later time, either parent may be able to come back to court to request a modification of child support. But note that, similar to child custody, there must be a substantial change in circumstances from the conditions that existed at the time of the original order. And also like child custody, whatever modification the court enters must be in the child’s best interests.
Which Changes Are Substantial Enough To Support One?
While every case is different, there are some changes in circumstances that frequently justify a modification. Some examples include:
Either parent experiences economic hardship. Whether because of a job loss, unexpected medical bills, the sudden need to care for a loved one, or innumerable other reasons, either parent may experience financial difficulty. Economic hardship can make it challenging for the parent receiving child support to pay for the child’s needs. Likewise, it can make it difficult for the parent who is paying child support to continue to do so.
Unexpected health expenses of the child. The child may suddenly develop a disease, or be injured or disabled, and thereby incur more health costs. Insurance for the child may become more expensive, and incidental costs can become significantly higher. While judges attempt to anticipate a child’s future medical expenses during the initial child support hearing, this isn’t always possible, so a modification may be needed.
Higher paying job. The parent who is paying child support may get a promotion or make a career change resulting in higher pay, and therefore an increased ability to financially support the child. But this works the other way as well: the parent receiving child support may suddenly have a higher income due to a better job. Either way, higher-income can justify a request to modify child support.
These are just some of the reasons for modifying child support. The important thing is to take action as soon as you realize that either your needs as the receiving parent or your financial means as the paying parent, will soon be changing.
How Is Child Support Modified In Florida?
The parent requesting a modification to child support will need to file a petition with the court to do so. In that petition, the requesting parent will explain the substantial changes in circumstances that support the modification. An affidavit should accompany the request and should include details about the requesting parent’s income situation.
If the other parent disagrees with the requested modification, he or she will have the chance to explain to the court why the prior child support order should stay in place. That means either rebutting the alleged substantial change in circumstances or showing that a change is not needed to protect the child’s best interests. Both parents will be able to present evidence and testimony in court.
If you are requesting a decrease in your child support obligation because of a job loss, be ready to have your request closely scrutinized. While the court can reduce child support due to unemployment, the paying parent must have lost his or her job through no fault of their own. Any evidence that the paying parent voluntarily quit their job, intentionally got themselves fired, or is refusing to work more hours or for better pay, will result in the modification being denied.
You can expect that same scrutiny if you are the receiving parent and you claim a need for more child support because of a job loss. The paying parent will want to keep the original order as is and will look for ways to criticize your sudden financial need. Having strong supporting documentation is key for putting forth your best argument, regardless of which side of the case you’re on.
Contact Our Orlando Child Support Modification Attorney
Orlando Family Team represents both the parents who receive child support and the ones who pay it in modification cases. Many parents agree to modify child support through mediation or other out-of-court negotiations. In cases like these, the judge would still have the duty to review proposed changes, and an attorney should still draft a proposed new child support order. However, parents who amicably agree to modify child support tend to save time, money, and stress by keeping court involvement to a minimum.
But we are also here if the other parent doesn’t agree to the change and a court hearing is necessary. Also, we can defend you if the other parent wants a modification that you believe isn’t justified by the circumstances in your case. We understand Florida child support laws and we know how to make a compelling case in the interest of our clients and their children. Contact our office today to discuss the details of your case.