In the best of situations, sometimes plans just don’t work out. It’s the same for some of the worst situations: Florida divorces. For example, a Florida couple may have carefully negotiated and agreed to a specific level of child support to be paid, say by the former husband. That amount was based on conditions at the time of the divorce. Yet, conditions can change. If the couple were still married, the changes would have to be worked through the family budget. Following the divorce, can child support payments also change? As with a number of legal issues, the answer is: “It depends.”
“Substantial Change in Circumstances”
As one might imagine, the Florida court is not particularly interested in re-litigating the child support issue every time some minor circumstance in the former couple’s life is altered. The court expects the former husband and wife to have built some flexibility into the child support arrangement. Changes in child support can, therefore, only be ordered and approved where there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.”
Factors That Might Suggest There Has Been a “Substantial Change”
While each situation is unique, there are a number of common factors that can lead to a finding of substantial change in circumstances. Among them are:
- A change (positive or negative) in the income of the paying former spouse
- A change (positive or negative) in the income of the former spouse who receives the child support payments
- A change in the overnight parenting pattern exercised by either parent
- A change in child care expenses for a child or children
- A change in healthcare insurance costs for the child or children
Typically, the court re-computes child support, using the Florida child support guidelines, and takes the changes into account. The court may modify the payment only if the difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines is at least 15 percent or $50, whichever amount is greater [§ 61.30 (1)(b), Fla. Stat.].
Change Must Be Permanent and Unanticipated
Bear in mind also that, generally, the change in circumstances must be both permanent and unanticipated. For example, if the paying former spouse gets a one-time bonus, that ordinarily will not be grounds for a change in custody payments. If the claimed change in circumstances is due to diminished income on the part of either spouse, that reduction in income must be involuntary. That is to say, if a former spouse quits his or her job, he or she cannot ordinarily seek a modification of child support payments. If the paying spouse remarries and the new spouse has children, or the new couple has another child, the effect of that child on the parties’ finances will ordinarily not be considered as a change of circumstances.
Need Legal Advice Regarding Gifts or Inheritances? Is a Divorce in Your Future?
Have significant changes occurred since your divorce that might affect the child support payments that are currently in place? The Duval/St. Johns County area law firm of Beller & Bustamante, P.L. can help you sort through the situation and assist in determining what is in the best interests of your child or children, as well as yourself? We have the knowledge and experience to represent your interests vigorously when it comes to child support, a divorce, or any other family law issue. Contact us online or call us at (904) 288-4414 today.