You have been paying child support for some time now, and you are likely happy to be supporting your children. However, what do you do if an event happens in your life that changes your financial circumstances? If that event means that you’re bringing in less money, it will likely make it tough for you to continue your child support payments at their current level. So the question arises, Can you change your child support payments?
Changing Your Child Support Payments
The simple answer is that, yes, you can change your child support payments if your circumstances have changed. However, your change in circumstances has to meet three criteria before you can do so.
#1: The Change Must Be Substantial
The Florida Department of Revenue has given guidelines as to what they consider a “substantial” change in finances. If your child support agreement was issued, reviewed, or changed less than three years ago, the financial effect must create at least a 15% variance that amounts to a $50 difference or more. However, if your child support agreement was issued, reviewed, or changed more than three years ago, the change must amount to at least a 10% change that results in a minimum variance of $25.
#2: The Change Must Be Permanent
In most cases, the Florida Department of Revenue considers a change to be “permanent” if it has lasted six months or more. However, each circumstance is different, which is why consulting with an experienced family law attorney is advisable here. For example, being laid off from a job may not meet the criteria of “permanent” because you are likely to find another job. However, if you are old enough to retire or are disabled, then your circumstances will likely fit the definition of permanent.
#3: The Change Must Be Involuntary
This means the change in your circumstances must be beyond your control. For example, you cannot quit your job or take a lower-paying job on purpose or voluntarily—and then claim a change in circumstances. This definition of a voluntary change includes incarceration. The reasoning is that, even though you are not voluntarily going to jail, the criminal offense that you committed that got you incarcerated was voluntary.
Examples of Possible Changes
Most requests for a change of child support are initiated because of a change in income for the supporting parent. However, there are other reasons for needing to change your support amount.
Change in Expenses
When there is a significant change in expenses related to the care of a child, the parent paying those expenses can file for a change of child support payments. However, that change in expense must meet the same criteria of being substantial, permanent, and involuntary. Some examples of common changes are:
A change in a parent’s health insurance rate;
A change in a child’s health insurance rate;
A change in taxes;
A change in alimony; and
A change in daycare expenses.
Another common situation is when a parent has a child support order from another marriage. Any significant change in that existing order may impact a parent’s financial circumstances—and qualify as a substantial change in circumstances for the purposes of filing a request to modify child support.
Change in Parental Timeshare
The amount of nights a child spends with each parent is generally laid out in a Parenting Plan, and child support calculations are made based on that plan. However, if the child is now spending significantly more nights with one parent than is outlined in the Parenting Plan, then a change in child support is likely justified.
How to Change Your Child Support
In Florida, either parent can submit their request for a modification of child support to the Florida Child Support Program (the Program) along with their supporting documentation. The Program will then reach out to the other parent and gather their financial and other relevant information. Once the Program decides if there is a case for changing child support, it will issue its findings to both parents. You also have the option of bypassing the Child Support Program and filing a petition for modification in circuit court.
If a judge determines that the child support order should be changed, then the next step depends on who issued the original order.
If the court issued the child support order, then the Program will assign a Program attorney to handle the petition filing.
If the child support order was an administrative order issued by the Program, then both parents would be notified of a formal administrative hearing where they can each plead their case.
If another state issued the child support order, then the Program will forward their findings to that state, who will then make the final determination.
Whether you are the petitioner or respondent, having your own attorney is always the best idea in any of these situations. Only a lawyer you hire has your best interests in mind at any hearing. With so much at stake, having a dedicated attorney in your corner can help ensure you don’t get taken advantage of or short-changed during this process.
Can You Change Past Child Support?
You generally cannot change child support that is past due. Typically, this means that the amount that has accumulated usually stays that way. Keep in mind that the modification date is the date that the modification order is issued, not when the change of circumstances occurred. One exception to that rule of thumb is when your child becomes an adult and child support can be retroactively terminated. In either case, it is important to immediately file for a modification of child support when there is a change of circumstance or when your child becomes an adult.
We Can Guide You Through It
The attorneys at the Jarbath Peña Law Group are experienced at handling child support modifications. Too often, divorced parents suffer under unfair child support payments after their circumstances have significantly changed. We understand your desire to support your children, but there are times when you need to reduce your payments in order to survive. We can answer your questions as to whether a modification is necessary, file the appropriate paperwork, and represent you at the modification hearing. Call us today to discuss your case!
Of course, if your ex has had a substantially positive change in circumstances, such as a big promotion, then you are entitled to a modification of child support as well. We’d be happy to answer your questions and represent you in this situation as well.
Call us today at 305-615-1005 or contact us through our online contact form. Let our staff of legal professionals use their years of experience to take care of the details of your child support modification and protect your financial interests. Contact us today!