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Florida Law - When Can Child Support Awards Be Modified?
One of the most common issues I deal with daily as a family law practitioner is the modification of child support. Yet, surprisingly, most divorced parents incurring either end of a child support obligation are in the dark about what circumstances may subject them to a modification.
Child support awards may typically be modified when, under the law and in the court's eyes, a "substantial change in circumstances" takes place. The legislature, and therefore the courts, deems that a substantial change has occurred whenever there is a significant change in income or financial ability of either party, when health insurance becomes available, or when a child is emancipated. An increase or decrease in income for either party will offset the child support equation, thereby increasing or decreasing the child support obligation. Termination of a party's employment which has taken place without fault may be grounds for a modification of child support.
In order for the court to find that a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification has taken place, the amount provided for under the Child Support Guidelines must be at least a 15% difference (or $50.00 per month, whichever is greater) from the amount previously ordered.
The change should be one that was not recognized during the earlier proceedings and it should be long-term and/or continuing in nature. A one time bonus, judgment, award, or prize, for example, is not "continuing" in nature and therefore cannot affect long term net income.
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 not be considered.
All of this comes together as follows, taking the statutory minimum change (15% or $50) into consideration:
When the Florida court decides on the issue of child custody and visitation, the gender of the parents is not considered. For example, a mother will not automatically receive custody of the children just because she is the mother. The judge must only consider what is in the best interests of the child. Florida divorce law requires Shared Parental Responsibility. This means that even though the child may live with one parent, the other parent has equal say in raising the child. Each party must be consulted on the education, health, religion, and discipline of the child. And, if the parties cannot agree on these important issues, the judge will make the decisions.
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