After a divorce, or ending of a significant relationship, it is inevitable that you move forward with your life. Most will engage in a subsequent marriage or have other children. When your family and responsibilities have grown, you may wish to limit your expenses, one of these being your obligation of child support payments for a child from a previous relationship. However, your child support obligations are subject to specific rules and regulations limiting their modification. Therefore, you should seek counsel from an experienced child support attorney in order to understand your obligation and future options.
Under Florida law, a modification of child support must be supported by an unanticipated, substantial change in circumstances. While a marriage and birth of a child is a significant experience, and does involve a substantial change in the life of an individual, these actions are not seen as proper grounds for a modification of an existing child support award, and will not relieve a parent of their previously existing child support obligation. The court has held that the voluntary actions of assuming new financial responsibilities as a parent or spouse should not hinder the support of an existing child. Instead, the legislature implemented laws, interpreted by the courts, that charge the obligated parent to consider their financial obligations, including their child support payments, when encountering these new responsibilities.
For example, Florida Statue 61.30(12) displays a clear preference towards children who are under an existing child support order, in relation to their subsequent siblings. The statute in relevant part states, “the existence of such subsequent children should not as a general rule be considered by the court as a basis for disregarding the amount provided in the guidelines schedule.” The statute protects these children from losing a substantial amount of support, due to no action of their own, but rather the voluntary actions of their obligated parent. Instead, the parent is encouraged to seek secondary employment to adequately maintain their prior obligation in addition to the new financial requirements of subsequent children. Further, Florida Statute only permits “the issue of subsequent children [to] be raised in a proceeding for an upward modification of an existing award and may not be applied to justify a decrease in an existing award.” These statutes clearly imply the desire of the legislature to hold an obligated parent responsible for the financial support of their child, absent the later effects a new marriage or child may have on their financial income or expenses. Therefore, you are encouraged to properly allocate your finances when considering significant life events.
The Florida legislature has routinely provided protections for family support obligations and therefore, child support is significantly regulated and modification of the same can be difficult to come by. Ensure you understand your rights and options regarding these payments by consulting with an attorney.
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