How to Successfully Modify Child Support in Florida
You and your ex-spouse spent a lot of time and money negotiating child support during your divorce case. So, what happens months or years down the road when circumstances change?
Parents can modify child support in Florida – but there are conditions.
Child support in Florida is determined by considering several factors, including each parent’s income and the custody arrangement. But life has a way of changing. One parent may eventually receive a promotion and earn a higher income. Or the nights the child spends at one parent’s home may increase or decrease.
If a parent’s financial circumstance changes, if there are changes made to child custody, or if any other number of alterations are made to the original child support order, the amount of child support a parent receives may be modified.
A Parent Can Modify Child Support in Florida If They Meet Certain Requirements
Under Florida child support law, child support is always modifiable. As long as the increase or decrease in support is at least $50 or 15%, whichever is greater, the Florida Child Support Statutes allow a parent to file a petition for modification of child support when one of the following takes place.
- It is found necessary by the court to be in the best interest of the child
- The child reaches majority; 18 years old in Florida
- A child is emancipated, marries, joins the armed services, or dies
- There is a substantial change in circumstances of the parties
What Constitutes a ‘Substantial Change in Circumstances’ in a Child Support Modification Case?
While there are several circumstances that could arguably be considered a substantial change, the list below includes the circumstances most often awarded a modification of child support in Florida.
Change in a Parent’s Income
An increase or decrease in income is the most common reason for a modification to a child support order. Simply put, if the circumstances or financial ability of either parent changes, you may apply for an order decreasing or increasing child support.
If your decrease in income is due to a job loss, you’ll have to prove that the job loss was involuntary and not a purposeful attempt to lower your child support payments. Cases of job loss can become complicated quickly.
Regardless of which parent lost their job, you should have an experienced child support lawyer by your side during cases of voluntary vs. involuntary job loss related to child support modifications.
Change in the Parenting Pattern
Child support in Florida considers the total number of overnights the child spends at either parent’s home. That number gets factored into the child support calculation and is referenced as the parenting pattern.
If your original parenting plan outlined a 50/50 split of overnights among both parents, but the actual number of overnights ends up as a 60/40 split, the court can recalculate child support payments based on the new parenting pattern. This type of modification is retroactive to the date the parent first failed to exercise the agreed-upon parenting plan.
The exception is a parent who already has less than 20% of overnights. If that parent’s actual number of nights with their child decreases below the set 20% mark, a modification to child support won’t be considered.
Change in Relevant Expenses
A big factor in the child support calculation is expenses. If the cost of a necessary expense increases or decreases, or if one is added or removed, a modification is usually granted. These are some of the most common expenses that trigger modifications to child support in Florida.
The annual cost of childcare often increases over time. As those costs increase, your child support order can be modified to cover the added expense. Childcare expenses can also serve as a reason to modify child support if one parent has difficulty paying the cost.
The more alimony one parent receives, the less child support they typically receive. Therefore, in cases where one parent receives temporary alimony, the end of the alimony payment – which could be considered a decrease in income – can trigger a case for an increase in child support.
Your child’s health insurance costs are factored into the child support calculation. Every year when health insurance premiums change, a modification to child support can be petitioned to account for the change in costs.
Each parent is responsible for their health insurance. However, the cost of health insurance is a deduction from each parent’s gross income according to the Florida Child Support Statutes. Therefore, a change in your or your ex-spouse’s health insurance costs can create a case for a modification to the child support order.
Your taxes have a significant impact on your child support obligations. Most notably are payroll tax changes if a parent moves to a new city or state where this tax is imposed, or a federal, state, or local tax law change. Any tax change can alter your total net income and, therefore, the amount of child support you owe. Net income changes are situations where a petition for child support modification should be submitted.
Separate Child Support Orders
If one parent pays child support from another marriage, the Florida courts will consider that a valid deduction from total income. A lesser income will, therefore, decrease the child support payments owed to you. If you or your ex-spouse end up paying child support for a divorce from a separate marriage, a modification to your child support order will determine the appropriate amount now owed and whether a decrease or increase is required.
How to Petition for a Child Support Modification in Florida
Child support modification petitions are filed slightly differently depending on which county you live in. However, in general, if you want to modify support you must file a Supplemental Petition to Modify Child Support. You’ll then need to serve the petition to your ex-spouse and you each must disclose financial information before the court can make a determination and either accept or deny the modification.
If your child support case has ever involved the Florida Department of Revenue, child support modifications can become much more complicated. If so, contact an experienced Florida child support lawyer to support you through the process.
File Your Petition as Soon as the Need for a Modification Arises
Florida’s child support statutes list modifications effective on the filing date. It does not allow for child support payments in arrears.
For instance, if your income decreases suddenly and you need additional child support, but you wait 30 days to file your petition for modification, the court won’t grant you child support retroactively for the 30 days before you filed. For this reason, always file your petition for modification as soon as your needs change.
Once your modification is submitted and approved, make sure you end up with a direct order to the Florida Disbursement Unit with any corrections to child support arrears and to confirm the correct amounts for future payments.
Contact us today for a free family law case evaluation. We’ll listen to your case and explain your rights. When you’re ready to work with an experienced Florida family law and divorce lawyer to help you modify your child support order, fill out the form on our Contact Us page or give us a call at (954) 880-1302.