A divorce or separation never an easy thing for anyone. The emotional and time toll that these proceedings take on a person can be utterly exhausting. Once the judge has made their decision and issued their legal judgement, is their decision with regard to child support arrangements final and unchangeable? The answer to that is; not necessarily. If there is a change in circumstances for one or both parents, child support could be reduced, increased, or otherwise altered as ordered by a judge.
Child support determinations are not set in stone. There are factors which can lead to a family law case being reopened, and an order for modification being entered as to exactly how much is owed for child support payments. Modifications to an existing child support ruling are sought when a substantial “change in circumstances” for one or both parents occurs. This alteration will either increase or decrease the amount of child support which is paid or received by a party.
What constitutes a substantial change in circumstances? The loss of a job, or a large promotion, certainly springs to mind as a substantial change in circumstances which could alter the child support determinations. A less common change in circumstances could be winning the lottery or coming into a large inheritance. Any substantial increase or decrease in income could be seen by the court as cause to modify an existing ruling. However, it is more than just a change in either party’s income that merits such a modification. Rulings could be changed if expenses shift, such as an increase or decrease in the cost of daycare or health insurance for the child. Another example of an opportunity for child support modification comes when a child turns 18 and graduates from high school.
There is no exact amount that the income of a parent must change prior to the filing of a modification action. Whatever the change in circumstances or change in income may be, that change in income must reflect a change in the ordered child support amount of at least 15% or $50, whichever is greater. That change could be an increase or a decrease in the amount of child support you or the other party is required to pay. Note that child support agreements are never unchangeable. Depending on your or the other party’s change in circumstances, your child support agreements could be modified several times over the course of your child’s life.
Another factor which could be cause for modification of child support could be a substantial change in the pattern of parenting time spent by one parent, or the actual time spent with and caring for the child by a parent. For instance, the official timesharing schedule or parenting plan established by the courts may have both parents sharing exactly 50-50 timesharing, with one parent getting half of the time with the child and the other parent getting the remaining half of the time with the child. However, if, in reality, the mother is really getting 80% of the time with the child, and exercising the parental (and financial) responsibilities that come with caring for the child on a majority time basis, while the father is only getting 20% of the time with the child, were the mother to seek a modification of child support, the courts may recalculate child support based on the pattern of parenting time.
When it comes to divorced or separated families, requirements for child support payments are not the only factor that can be re-determined after a final judgement is issued by the court. Time sharing is also determined by the court, and can always be modified provided there is a substantial change in circumstances for one or both parents. The alleging party must prove that such a shift has occurred, and show the court evidence of the requested change, whether it be for an increase or decrease of timesharing, is in the best interest of the child. For example, if one parent gets a promotion at work which requires them to relocate 40 miles away from the other parent and the child, timesharing may need to be modified to accommodate for the further distance and travel time required. Ultimately, the courts focus on allotting child support, timesharing and other factors based on the welfare and best interests of the child.
Time and money are two factors that can prove daunting in the post-divorce or post-separation landscape. Note that until an order is officially and legally modified, terminated or vacated, the amount of child support ordered is owed and legally enforceable by the courts. Even if your ex-spouse/co-parent’s circumstances have changed, and whether or not you feel that you should not have to pay a certain amount of child support as a result of that change in circumstances, your child support obligations remain the same until an order modifying or terminating child support requirements is issued by a judge or magistrate.
Know that filing a petition to modify your existing child support agreement may not, and likely will not be, a quick and easy process. If you are seeking to modify your existing child support or timesharing arrangement, it is important to have the input of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side. The attorneys at The Orlando Law Group represent families throughout Orlando, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs, Winter Garden, Lake Nona, St. Cloud, Kissimmee, and throughout central Florida.
If you are dealing with a family law issue or looking for some preventative family law services, please reach out to our office at 407-512-4394, fill out our online contact form.
If you have questions about anything discussed in this article or other legal matters, give our office a call at 407-512-4394 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 12301 Lake Underhill Rd, Suite 213, Orlando, FL 32828, as well as offices in Seminole, Osceola and West Orange counties to assist you.
Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by The Orlando Law Group