Child support payments are generally established at the time of your divorce. However, circumstances may arise that dramatically alter your financial outlook. This can make it hard to pay existing support agreements. Alternatively, a parent may request a support modification if their former spouse sees an increase in their monthly income. No matter what the circumstances, having a skilled Tampa child support modification lawyer manage your request to change a child support agreement will increase the likelihood that the court will honor your request.
Are All Child Support Agreements Modifiable?
Yes. There is no such thing as a non-modifiable child support order. Drafting an argument that will move the court to change an existing order is another matter entirely. The parent must show that there is a “substantial change in circumstances” that warrants a modification of the order.
When Can an Agreement be Modified?
A “substantial change in circumstances” that results in a modification that would change the amount of money received by the parent with the majority of parenting time must be greater than either $50 or 15%, whichever is greater.
Factors Influencing the Modification of a Child Support Agreement
There are several factors that the court will consider when changing a child support agreement. These include:
- Change in income - A substantial change in income is grounds for a child support modification. Typically, a loss of a job will require a parent to petition the court to modify an existing arrangement, at least temporarily. In other circumstances, a parent may requisition more child support if the other parent has gotten a new job, a major promotion, or otherwise has more income coming in.
- Change in parenting time - As time goes on, a child may end up spending more time with Dad and less time with Mom or vice versa. If the child is spending more nights with the other parent, that parent may request a child support modification since they are incurring greater expenses.
- Change in expenses - Any change in expenses can be the basis for a child support modification. This petition can be presented by either parent.
Expenses That Can Result in a Child Support Modification
- Daycare - If daycare is specifically mentioned in a child support order, then any change in the daycare can result in a modification of the order. Only parents who must place their children in daycare for employment reasons qualify to modify an existing agreement based on this requirement. Stay-at-home parents cannot request more child support for daycare.
- Alimony - When a temporary alimony arrangement ends, the parent who is paying the alimony has more money while the parent who is receiving the alimony has less. This can result in a child support modification in which some of the lost revenue is offset by an increase in child support.
- Other child support orders - A court-ordered child support order reduces income from the parent who does not have a majority of parenting time without regard for other child support orders that exist.
- Taxes - It often happens that a parent moves out of the family house post-divorce only to end up somewhere else where the tax situation is completely changed. Tax burden can be included as an income deduction.
- Health insurance for children - A change in job may allow a parent to place a child on their company health insurance policy reducing both parents' obligation to pay the insurance out of pocket.
How Do I Change a Child Support Order?
Essentially, a parent who wants to change a child support order must petition the court. They must first prove that the order will result in a significant change in child support (the greater of 15% or $50). The form is called the Supplemental Petition to Modify Child Support.
Traditionally, this is handled by your attorney, but parents who cannot afford one generally have their cases managed by an attorney appointed by the Florida Department of Revenue. Those who have had cases heard in that forum may be required to try their case in their forum as opposed to a family court. It adds a wrinkle, but it is nothing that a seasoned family lawyer cannot handle.
What if I Lost My Job?
If you are paying child support and you lose your job, you may not have the necessary income required to continue to pay an existing order. This happens quite frequently, in fact. The success of your petition will depend on how you lost your job. If you showed up to work drunk and punched your boss, the court will be less willing to modify the support order than they would if you lost your job due to downsizing or sudden layoffs. Typically, if the job loss was your fault, the court will expect you to get another job. If the job loss was not your fault, the court will still expect you to replace your job, but will also allow you to defer payments on a temporary basis or reduce the support burden to your children.
Can I Backdate a Modification?
No. If (for example) a parent has not paid child support due to job loss, they may wish to post-date the modification to the date of the job loss. Hence, any arrearages accrued during that period can be reduced to a smaller amount. The modifications are effective at the date that your petition is filed. Only in cases where a parent continued to pay child support after the child reached the age of 18 will the court consider backdating a modification.
Contact a Tampa Child Support Modifications Lawyer Today
The Florida Divorce Law Group represents the interests of parents who wish to change an existing child support order. We help both parents who are seeking more child support and parents who are seeking to reduce their child support burden for cause. Call us today to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a seasoned Florida divorce attorney.