How to Modify a Child Support Agreement in Florida

Child support is required in most divorce cases when minor children are involved. Even if parents split time evenly with the children, child support is still awarded to one parent to ensure the children are financially taken care of regardless of which parent they stay with. Child support agreements are made as part of filing for divorce. Once the divorce decree has been made, the child support order goes into effect indefinitely. After a few years, you may find that your circumstances have changed, and you need to modify the original child support order. Below, we discuss how and why to update a child support agreement in Florida. 

Eligibility

Any parent can request a child support modification, but the current order must be valid for another six months to be eligible for modification. The parent requesting the change will also need to prove that they experienced a substantial, permanent, and involuntary change, such as a change in healthcare status or a job layoff that justifies the modification. If the order has been issued, changed, or reviewed within the last three years, The modification must be at least a 15% (or no less than $50) difference from the current order. If it’s been over three years, the request should be changed by at least 10% or no less than $25. 

When Child Support Can Be Modified 

There must be significant changes to circumstances to justify requesting a child support modification. Some of the most common reasons child support orders are modified include:

Time-Sharing Schedule Changes 

Child support is awarded based on each parent’s income and how many nights the children spend with each parent. If the amount of time differs significantly from the original parenting plan, you may request to modify a child support payment. 

Income Changes 

The most common reason to request a child support modification is when one parent experiences a substantial change in income. You can request a child support modification based on income changes, whether you’re the parent receiving or making payments. Child support orders are often changed when one parent experiences a job loss or significant income decrease. However, child support payments can also be updated if one parent experiences a significant increase in income and can support their children better. 

Changes in Expenses 

As children grow, the costs associated with their care also change. It may be time to update the child support agreement when this happens. Examples include the cost of childcare, healthcare, school tuition, and agreed-upon after-school activities. 

Steps to Modify Child Support 

Changes to child support can take up to six months to enact. In the meantime, the original order remains in effect. Here’s how to modify child support in Florida:

File a Supplemental Petition to Modify Child Support

The first step is to request the child support change with the family court that first approved the order. The petition should specify what you’d like the new payment to be, the reason for the change, and whether this change is temporary or permanent. 

Response 

Once your ex-spouse receives the petition, they’ll have 20 days to respond to the order, either by accepting the modification or submitting a counteroffer. If your ex doesn’t respond, you can file a Motion to Default, which requests a default judgment in your favor. If your ex responds with a counteroffer, a hearing will be scheduled to determine the final judgment. 

Mediation and Negotiation

If your ex comes back with a counter-petition, you and your ex will need to work together to come to an agreement. This can be done through mediation where you, your ex, and your lawyers meet to discuss the details of the arrangement. The goal is to reach an agreement before the hearing and present the judge with the updated plan. You may need to present financial documents proving your income and expenses to justify the change during this time.

Hearing 

If you had your ex agree on the child support modification, you’d present the judge with the new plan at the hearing. If you and your ex failed to reach an agreement, a judge will decide at the hearing. The judge will either grant or deny the request. Once the judgment is made, the new order goes into effect immediately. 

 Navigate Child Support and Time Sharing with Remsen Family Law Firm

Child support modification requests can heighten emotions in already tense situations. Trust the experienced attorneys at the Remsen Family Law Firm to help you manage a child support modification request. We serve Seminole and Lake counties, with offices conveniently located in Clermont, Tavares, and Lake Mary to assist you with family-related legal matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.