When Can You Modify Child Support in Florida?
Today’s fluctuating economy has left many Florida residents facing job volatility. This volatility frequently means unexpected loss of employment or salary cuts that hinder a paying party’s ability to keep current on their child support obligation. If you get a divorce and set a child support obligation while your child is relatively young, there is a high chance you or your spouse may be entitled to a modification of child support before your child is emancipated.
The Legal Standard For Modification of Child Support in Florida
In order to modify child support in Florida, the party seeking modification must show that there has been a “substantial change in circumstances” since entry of the final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage or most recent Family Court Order setting a child support obligation. This change in circumstances must be permanent in that it has already lasted one year or is anticipated to last for one year or more. Further, this change in circumstances must be involuntary. This means a paying party cannot voluntarily seek to evade his child support obligation by terminating his own employment.
Events That Constitute a “Substantial Change in Circumstances”
Florida law specifies that to warrant a modification, the new amount derived from the Child Support Guidelines must differ from the previously set amount by at least 15% or $50.00 per month, whichever is greater. There are several key events that commonly trigger modification based on a “substantial change in circumstances”:
- Loss of Employment by Either Party: When first establishing a child support obligation, Florida courts consider the net incomes of both parents. Accordingly, if either the receiving or paying party loses their employment, they can seek to modify the child support order to reflect their loss of income.
- Substantial Increase or Decrease in Either Party’s Income: Similar to the above, if one spouse’s income substantially increases or decreases, either party can seek to modify the child support order to reflect the party’s new income.
- Change in Child Care Expenses Paid for the Minor Child: Since costs of child care are included as part of the initial child support calculation as well, if these expenses are terminated, a paying party may seek to modify child support.
- Change in Health Insurance Costs: Similar to daycare expenses, costs of child care are included in an initial child support calculation. Accordingly, if a paying party’s health insurance premiums increase, this may warrant a modification.
- Disability of Either Party: If either party becomes disabled and is forced to start receiving disability benefits in lieu of or in addition to income, either party may seek to modify child support.
Timing for Filing for Modification
It is in the best interests of the party seeking modification to file for modification as soon as possible after the change in circumstances has occurred. This is because generally, a modification can only be granted retroactive to the date of filing of a modification petition. This means if you are a paying party who loses your job but fails to file a petition to modify child support after one year, your child support will keep building up and still remain due and owing. Similarly, if you are a receiving party and your spouse gets a huge raise, but you do not file a petition to modify until a year later, you will likely not be entitled to a higher child support amount for that year while your husband has earned a higher salary.
However, one exception to the general rule regarding retroactivity is where child support was established based on both parents sharing a substantial amount of time with the minor child. If this was the case, and your spouse stops exercising the time with your child, you may seek to modify child support back to the date when your spouse stopped exercising his time.
Contact an Experienced Florida Child Support Attorney Today
If you are seeking modification of a previously set child support obligation based on a substantial change in circumstances in a Winter Park, Florida case, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Cotter & Zelman, P.A. today. We can assist you throughout each step of your case.