When you are served with a petition to modify an existing child support order, you may panic with fear regarding the loss of the financial support that provides for the needs of your child. However, it is important to understand the statutory requirements of a modification and aid your case by employing a knowledgeable child support attorney to ensure your rights are protected.
If you are the recipient, or an obligated party involved in an existing child support order, you may file a supplemental petition to modify this order with a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. However, this substantial change is generally a difficult bar to overcome as the Florida Legislature wishes to protect minor children and requires adequate financial aid be provided to support the child’s necessary living expenses. Therefore, when you are provided with a petition to modify an existing child support order, do not panic. Instead, begin by reviewing the grounds your co-parent noted as the substantial change in circumstances warranting the modification.
In general, substantial changes consist of loss of income, change in custody or visitation, or a significant medical diagnosis. Florida statute provides a presumption of substantial change when the support amount provided for the child, as calculated by the child support guidelines, would increase or decrease by 15% or $50. This support amount can change due to the expenses relating to the child, or the income of the parties having significantly increased or decreased. For instance, if a child has recently been diagnosed with a medical condition resulting in full time care, medical appointments, or educational needs the expenses will inevitably increase which may require more financial support.
Further, the support amount may change due to the increase or decrease of income received by a party. However, courts are reluctant to modify child support if the decrease in income of a party was due to voluntary action. For instance, if your co-parent has voluntarily taken a position with a lesser salary, or engaged in voluntary conduct resulting in their termination, this form of decrease in income will not be accepted by the court. However, if the income decrease was a result of an involuntary act and the parent has actively attempted to obtain subsequent and equal employed with no result, or the parent’s income decrease was a result of a medical disability or diagnosis, the court may modify this obligation.
Finally, Florida Statute provides an avenue for modification of a child support when there has been a deviation in the parenting time exercised by the parties. For example, if the non-custodial parent is exercising 20% or more of the overnights in a year, the child support order should deviate from the child support guidelines in relation to the amount of time the non-custodial parent shares with the child.
Modification procedures can be overwhelming when attempting to retain the financial security for the benefit of your child. To ease your concerns, seek the guidance and counsel of an experienced attorney. They will be able to thoroughly explain the modification procedures, negotiate a settlement, or argue your case before a court to protect your rights.
Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at (800) 822-5170 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.