Once a divorce is finalized and child support and custody worked out, it seems the hard part is over. What happens, though, when circumstances beyond your control change your financial outlook and you find yourself unable to make your child support payments? Florida law offers the option of modifying your required child support payments to fit your new circumstances, but you first must qualify for the modification based on a set of parameters established by the state. The following includes an outline of what you need to know to successfully petition for a change in your child support obligation.Necessary Basis for Modification Petition
First, both the person obligated to pay child support and the recipient are entitled to file a petition to modify the payment amount, and the basis for the petition may be financial changes for a parent or new expenses needed to care for the child. Once you determine you want to request a change in child support, two factors must be satisfied – (1) there must a substantial change in your circumstances and the change in circumstances must be involuntary in nature. Examples of negative financial situations that fall under this standard include involuntarily losing your job, a significant reduction in income and ongoing large medical expenses. Other circumstances that could justify modifying the support payment are new health insurance costs, an increase in income for the child support recipient or a change in the child’s circumstances, like emancipation or the termination of daycare expenses.
The change will only be considered substantial if the difference between the old child support payment amount and the amount provided under the child support guidelines using the new income is at least 15% or $50 per month, whichever amount is greater. If you believe each requirement is satisfied, you may then file a Supplemental Petition to Modify Child Support with the court. The petition must be served on the other party and will require the disclosure of financial information by both parties.Department of Revenue Child Support Program
If you used the administrative child support program offered by the Florida Department of Revenue to determine your initial child support obligations, the process of requesting a modification is somewhat different. This option is used by divorcing couples to save money since it avoids associated court costs and is typically faster than going through the court system. Under this program, a parent has two choices when seeking to modify an existing child support order. The parent can request an administrative review of the child support payment, or the parent can request a judicially-issued support order that includes the participation of the Department of Revenue in the petition.
If you choose the administrative review, the Department of Revenue will collect financial information and issue each parent a proposed child support order that they can accept, or, if they do not like the proposed amount, request an in-person hearing. If you file a request for a court-determined child support modification plan, the Department of Revenue uses one of its attorneys to file a modification petition with the circuit court and requires the parents to appear before a child support hearing officer. The inclusion of the Department of Revenue in your modification petition can add additional time to move the petition through the court system and complicate the final decision since it adds another point of view to the process.
If you face circumstances that affect your ability to pay your child support obligations, contact the Fort Lauderdale attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Our attorneys can help you determine if you qualify for a modification and assist you with relieving this financial burden.