What Do I Need To Prepare For My Florida Child Support Trial?
Imagine this: you were recently served with a motion written by your spouse’s attorney seeking to increase your child support obligation. Alternatively, imagine you lose your job and you are seeking a decrease in your child support obligation. Your spouse’s motion has been set for trial before a judge and you are now faced with the questions of what you will need to do in preparation for the upcoming court date. There are a few commonly asked questions you should know general answers to prior to proceeding with the trial.
What Factors Will A Court Consider At The Trial?
To start with, it is important that you understand the legal basis for a child support modification. Florida Statute § 61.30(b) provides that if a party is seeking to modify a previous child support order, that party must show there has been a “substantial change in circumstances” since entry of the previous order. The statute defines a “substantial change in circumstances” as one that results in a new amount calculated by the child support guidelines that is different from the previous amount by at least 15% or $50.00 per month, whichever is greater. This change may be a result of a multitude of reasons, including loss or change of employment, change in child care or health insurance expenses for your child, substantial change in income, or disability of either party. The change must be involuntary.
What Documents Should I Have Ready?
In preparation for your hearing, you should compile all of your paystubs, tax returns, and any other statements related to your monthly child care and health insurance expenses. It is better to be forthcoming in your income disclosure. It is highly unlikely that a judge will take the time to look at a giant stack of your bank and credit card statements to review your child care and health insurance expenses. Therefore, you should consider creating a summary of these expenses to help the judge get a snapshot of your monthly expenses.
What Questions Will I Be Asked At The Trial?
The opposing attorney will likely ask you about your prior educational background, your work history, any professional skills you have, and other factors taken into account in determining child support. If your spouse is seeking a modification based on a change of employment, you should prepare to testify regarding the circumstances surrounding the job switch and any related salary negotiations. If you lost your job, the opposing attorney will ask what effort you are making to secure new employment and if you are receiving any unemployment compensation, Social Security income or disability and whether you have any permanent impairments to your ability to obtain alternative employment.
What If They Try to Impute Income to Me?
Even if you lose your job and get a job with significantly less income, your spouse may seek to ask the judge to set your child support obligation based on your previous income. This is called “imputing income.” To defend against a claim that you should have your income imputed, you should prepare a summary of jobs you tried to apply for in your field with your level of expertise. This will help show the judge that you are not voluntarily trying to evade your obligation.
Reach Out to Us for Help
Facing a potential modification of child support can be daunting. To ensure your rights are protected, you should contact the experienced Winter Park family law attorneys at Cotter & Zelman, P.A. to help guide you through the different possible strategies for a child support trial.