What Are Some Things I Need to Know About Support Modifications in Florida?
After a divorce has concluded, it is not uncommon for circumstances to change and a divorce decree ordered years prior to longer accurately depict the circumstances of the parties. Support awards, whether child support or alimony are the most common items brought before the court for modification. If your circumstances have changed, bring these concerns to your Orlando Divorce Attorney and discuss the option of a modification and if it may be available to you in your case.
Florida courts allow for you to petition the court for modification of an existing support order when “the circumstances or financial ability of either party changes or the child who is the beneficiary of an agreement or order… reaches majority after the execution of the agreement or rendition of the Order” (61.14(1)(a)).
If a child support order has been awarded in your case, it is important to note the options you may have for a modification. One avenue to request a modification of a child support award is if one parent has failed to exercise their timesharing as provided in the parenting plan 61.30(11)(e). This modification will be retroactive to the date the parent first failed to exercise timesharing. However, to prospectively modify the child support award, you must also modify the parenting plan going forward. Andrews v. Andrews, 219 So. 3d 1006 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017). The court may also grant a modification of a child support award if a party or child has experienced a substantial change in circumstances that pushes the original award at least 15% or $50 difference above or below the original ordered obligation on the child support guidelines table. 61.30(1)(b); Brown v. Brown, 180 So. 3d 1070 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015). Some examples of a substantial change in circumstances are a substantial increase or decrease in a parent’s income Vincent v. Vincent, 715 So. 2d 1147 (Fla 4th DCA 1998) or a parent’s loss of job and inability to obtain equal employment elsewhere Grady v. Grady, 640 So. 2d 157 (Fla. 2d DCA 1994). However, if a parent voluntarily leaves a job and becomes unemployed or underemployed the court will not qualify this as a substantial and voluntary change warranting a modification. Rather, the court will impute the income to the unemployed party 61.30(2)(b). A child’s circumstances may also change resulting in a modification of a child support award. Florida statute provides that if a child reaches the age of majority, is emancipated, marries or joins the armed forces the support award may be modified. 743.07(2). Whether you, your former spouse or your child has experienced a change in circumstances; the party who is seeking the modification bears the burden of proving a substantial change exists. Bingemann v. Bingemann, 551 So. 2d 1228 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989). Therefore, if you are requesting a modification it is imperative to prepare your evidence and necessary documentation to provide the court with an accurate representation of the substantial change in circumstances. Your Orlando Divorce Attorney will be able to walk you through this process and address the necessary evidence that may be provided.
When petitioning for a modification of an alimony award, you may follow similar statutory requirements to a child support modification. Florida statute requires a substantial change in circumstances and that such a change was unanticipated, involuntary and permanent in nature. 61.14(1); Withers v. Withers, 390 So. 2d 453 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980); Pimm v. Pimm, 601 So. 2d 534 (Fla. 1992). Alimony modifications may be awarded if there is a job loss however, a party’s increase in income alone will not justify a modification Frantz v Frantz, 453 So. 2d 429 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984). Further, a party’s difficulty in fulfilling payments due to a new voluntarily incurred debt will not justify a modification. Cowie v. Cowie, 564 So. 2d 533 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1992). The court requires the modification be founded upon a voluntary and substantial change. However, Florida statute does provide a modification if a receiving party has gotten remarried or is in a supportive relationship 61.14. Such a relationship may be seen in the form of cohabitation, financial support, shared expenses, shared property, the length of the relationship or holding each other out as spouses. These relationships may be difficult to prove however your Orlando Divorce Attorney will be able to discuss with you the options available to you.
If your support order needs modification due to a substantial change in circumstances contact your Orlando Divorce Attorney as soon as possible. Many awards may only be retroactively modified to the date you file your petition; therefore, you could be losing money you may be entitled to if you wait.
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