“Child support is an ongoing, periodic payment made by the higher-income parent to the lower-income parent, or a third party such as a caregiver, guardian, or state, for the financial benefit of a child, after a divorce or the establishment of paternity. In Florida, child support is established by the courts and guided by a chart published in Florida Statutes §61.30″
During your divorce or paternity proceedings, child support will be calculated according to the parties’ net income. One parent will become the obligor (paying,) and the other parent the obligee (receiving).
Now, a few years have passed since the entering of the final divorce or paternity judgment and you, as the obligor cannot afford the monthly child support payments anymore or the obligee wants more child support because the needs of the child have changed. The question becomes, can the final divorce or paternity judgment be modified to decrease or increase the monthly child support payment?
The good news is that, in Florida, you can file a supplemental petition to modify a final judgment. However, modification proceedings are not as easy as one may think. To modify a final judgment, the petitioning party needs to show and prove “substantial change of circumstances,” that were unanticipated, permanent and involuntarily since the entry of the final judgment or the last modified final judgment.
Some of the reasons that may justify an upward or downward modification of child support are:
- Income Changes: Income decrease or increase for the obligor or the obligee;
- Time-Sharing Changes: A change in the parenting plan or time-sharing schedule. For example, an increase in overnights to one parent;
- Children’s Needs Changes.
The most common reason for a change in child support is a change in income. The change in income can be an increase or decrease and must be a substantial one. There is no fixed amount, but the income must change before filing a supplemental petition for modification. Under the Florida child support guidelines, the change must result in the child support amount changing by at least 15% or $50 upwards or downwards.
Keep in mind that a decrease in income cannot be related to voluntary job loss. So, if you decide to voluntarily quit your high paying job for the sake of reducing your child support that will not work. The loss of your job has to be involuntary, for example, you became permanently disabled, or the company you worked for closed or reduced their workforce.
A substantial change of overnights in the time-sharing schedule can be a reason to modify the existing child support obligations. Under Florida law, a “substantial amount of time” means that a parent exercises overnight time-sharing for at least 20 percent of the year. This translates to about 73 overnights per year. So for example, if the original child support order was established based on zero overnights for the obligor parent and now the obligor parent exercises at least 73 overnights with the child per year, that would be considered a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification of the obligor’s child support. If for example the original child support order was based on one parent having 73 overnights per year and the other parent 292 and now there is a new time-sharing schedule in place where both parents have about equal overnights with their children, that may also be consider a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification of child support. So if there is a shift in overnight time-sharing, even if the parties’ net incomes remain the same, it may be worth to run new child support guidelines to see if there is a change in child support payments.
Children’s Needs Changes
Particular changes or extra expenses related to the child(ren) needs could also justify modifications in child support. Some of the more frequent changes are:
Children’s Health Insurance: In Florida, child support calculations usually include the cost of the children’s health insurance. Both parents pay a proportion based on their net income. Any change in the health insurance premiums would support a need to file for a child support modification. If the child is receiving state-provided health coverage, health insurance changes would not apply.
Daycare: If daycare expenses were included in child support, any change in daycare can be used as a reason to modify support. Usually, daycare is a requirement related to employment needs, so daycare expenses for a stay at home parent do not apply.
Taxes: Drastic changes in payroll taxes can alter a party’s net income. This can be considered for a child support modification. It usually happens when a parent moves to another state or city that imposes different payroll taxes, even though the case is in Florida.
If you are seriously considering filing a supplemental petition for modification of child support and need assistance preparing for it, please call us at (954) 920-9220.
At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives. Every situation is different, so the court may consider other factors in your child support responsibilities. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.