Child support ensures the well-being of children whose parents have separated or divorced. In Florida, child support orders are determined based on both parents’ income and financial circumstances at the time of the initial ruling. However, if one parent’s life circumstances change enough, it may become necessary to modify child support obligations to reflect better the current needs and abilities of the parties involved.
Your ex’s request for child support modification must follow the state guidelines for making such a request. According to the Florida Department of Revenue, the current order must not end within six months of receiving the request, and the support order can’t have been changed or reviewed in the last three years. Child support can be modified if there is a substantial, permanent, and involuntary change in the parent’s circumstances.
If less than three years have passed since the issuing of the support order, a substantial change petition would seek a change in the order amount of at least 15%. If more than three years have passed, the order amount could be changed by at least 10%. A change in circumstance would be “substantial” if the parent paying support experiences a significant difference in income, either an increase or a decrease, or if they take physical custody of the child.
To prove a permanent change, the paying parent must show the change has lasted at least six months. Losing a job may not satisfy this requirement if the parent expects to find new employment within half a year. The paying parent may be able to prove a permanent change sooner if they suffer a life-changing injury or illness.
An involuntary change includes an employment layoff or long-term illness. It does not apply to a paying parent’s voluntary choices, such as quitting a job, taking a lower-paying job, or being terminated for reasons within their control.
When your child’s other parent asks for a lower child support amount, the court will review the circumstances and re-calculate the child support amount based on the state’s guidelines. The Department of Revenue estimates it will take around six months if a change is needed. However, each case is different and could take more or less time.
Next, the court considers the parents’ and child’s overall circumstances. Your child may have turned 18 and is no longer entitled to support, or they may have different expenses in situations such as going from expensive daycare to public school.
When the review is done, the Child Support Program notifies both parents by mail that the support order review has been completed. If changes to the support order are needed after the review, the Program will take action that may modify the order.
Your child’s other parent may attempt to lower their child support obligation for several reasons; however, they will only succeed if they demonstrate a significant change in circumstance. Even if your ex succeeds in getting a court hearing, they won’t necessarily “win” the case to modify or reduce their child support payments. The court will not reduce child support for reasons like:
You might rely on child support payments for financial help with the child’s education, activities, and necessities. If your ex tries to reduce their payments, attorney Michael Fayard can help. He understands the state’s requirements and will review the other parent’s petition to advise you on the best path forward in your family’s best interest.