In the State of Florida, child support is determined by Florida’s child support guidelines set forth in Florida Statutes, Section 61.30. Florida has a dynamic society and economy that leads to frequent changes. The factors that are used to calculate support, such as income, health insurance expenses and child care expenses, often change soon after a child support judgment is entered.
When faced with a substantial change in circumstance related to the payment of child support, Florida law allows parents to file a supplemental petition to modify child support obligation. The preliminary test to modify child support is whether or not the “difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines will change more than 15 percent or $50, whichever amount is greater.” See Florida Statutes, Section 61.30.
If a party meets the initial threshold to modify child support, the party seeking modification must plead with specificity the grounds for seeking modification. Examples of grounds to modify include but are not limited to reductions of income, changes in child care costs, and increases in income. In addition to pleading grounds for modification, the party seeking modification must file a financial affidavit contemporaneously with the supplemental petition. Failure to file a financial affidavit with the supplemental petition can result in the opposing party filing a motion to dismiss the supplemental petition to modify child support.
When ruling on a supplemental petition to modify child support in the context of income reduction, Florida courts will look to see if the substantial change in circumstance was voluntary. As a general rule, Florida courts will not allow a party to quit a high paying job to reduce child support. Therefore, the modifying party must show that the change in circumstances was involuntary. For example, a party laid-off in a corporate downsizing would likely be able to show an involuntary change in circumstance.
To permanently change a child support judgment or order, the party seeking modification must show that the change in circumstance is permanent. Courts have held for a change to be permanent (in the context of reduction of income) it must last a year or more. A party seeking modification of child support may still obtain an order modifying or abating child support on a temporary basis while looking for a job within the first year of the change, but courts are unlikely to modify the child support judgment on a permanent basis. Other changes unrelated to changes in income, such a permanent disability or time-sharing change, may not require a waiting period to be deemed a permanent change in circumstances.
The timing a supplemental petition to modify child support is critical. Courts are typically unable to modify child support to a date prior to the date of filing of a supplemental petition. Therefore, it is critical that a party seeking modification pursue modification as soon possible to minimize the impact of a job loss or to preserve a gain in income for the benefit of the parties’ child(ren).
As stated above, there must be substantial circumstance in order to get a modification a child support order or judgment. Examples of changes that may warrant a modification of child support are as follows:
· Changes in income
· Changes in parenting time
· Changes in work related child care expenses
· Changes in health care costs for either the parent or child(ren)
· Medical disability limiting the ability of one party to earn income
While seemly simple on the surface, child support modification is a complex area of law. If you are faced with a substantial change in circumstance related to the payment or receipt of child support, it is wise to consult with a family law attorney to determine your options
For those located in St. Johns County, Ponte Vedra, or Saint Augustine, Florida, The Taylor Law Office is here to help.