What Constitutes Substantial Change for Someone Modifying Child Support in Florida?

by Beverly Bird
    Parents must file a petition with the court in order to modfiy child support.

    Parents must file a petition with the court in order to modfiy child support.

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    Florida courts are aware that when parents part ways, their life circumstances may change. Children grow, lifestyles alter and parents’ incomes go up or down. The state’s legislation includes provisions for parents to go back to court when any such change affects their ability to pay child support or the children’s need to receive it. Parents can file a petition with the court, explaining the change and asking a judge to recalculate support based on the new circumstances.

    Parenting Time

    Florida passed a law effective January 1, 2011, mandating a modification of child support when the noncustodial parent’s time with his children increases to 20 percent or more of the year. If children were spending every other weekend with their noncustodial parent, sleeping over on Friday and Saturday nights, this would work out to about 52 nights a year, or approximately 14 percent of the time. If the children began spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights with that parent every other weekend, that would be 78 nights a year, or about 21 percent of the time. This parent can petition the court to have his child support obligation adjusted downward to allot for this extra visitation, and the judge is obligated to do so.

    Changes in Income

    If either parent’s income drops or increases significantly, it can warrant a child support adjustment in Florida. The change must be of such magnitude that recalculating child support based on parents’ current incomes results in a difference of at least $50 a month or 15 percent more or less than the old amount. If the paying parent loses his job or endures a drastic pay cut, or if the custodial parent’s income increases due to new employment or a big raise, the child support amount would go down. If the paying parent’s income increases greatly or the custodial parent loses her job or takes a pay cut, the child support amount would adjust upward.

    Children's Needs

    If the children’s needs change, this might also warrant a child support modification in Florida. If the paying parent is contributing support for three children and the oldest child emancipates or reaches the age when child support is no longer required, the court will recalculate support downward to address only the needs of two children. If one parent loses an employment perk of low-cost or free health insurance and must now pay for the children’s coverage, this would amount to a substantial change. If both parents are working more hours and the children must now spend more time in daycare, this can increase child support, because Florida includes such expenses in support calculations.

    Duration of Change

    Changes of circumstance must be long-term and can’t be voluntary on the part of either parent. For example, if a parent loses his job and petitions the court for a child support modification within a week, the court isn’t likely to grant the change. If that parent can show he’s been actively looking for work for months but hasn’t become re-employed, the court would probably adjust his child support obligation. If a parent elects to change careers and accepts a much lower-paying job in the process, a request to adjust child support would probably be denied.

    About the Author

    Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

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