Modifying Child Support Payments
Any single parent who provides most of the child care following a divorce or separation will attest to the fact that child support is essential to having the funds to raise a child. When child support is initially set, the amount calculated by the court is based on the financial resources and needs of the child at that particular time. However, life is all about change, and an amount that was adequate five years ago may no longer seem realistic based on present circumstances. State legislators understand that situations change that may require the adjustment of a child support obligation, and include a provision in the child support laws to account for this need. Florida law states that child support may be modified when it is in the best interest of the child or there is a substantial change in circumstances of the parties. While these standards may appear to be easy to meet, obtaining a modification is not that simple. Two Florida women, who have children fathered by NFL player Janoris Jenkins, recently petitioned a Florida court to increase the amount of child support each receive based on a new contract Jenkins signed in March that raised his annual salary from about $1 million to $12 million. This case is likely an obvious example of a substantial change for a party, but most cases are not so straightforward. It comes down to what a judge considers “substantial” or in the “best interest of the child.”
Since the judge has discretion to decide what type of change is significant enough to warrant a modification of child support, the outcome varies on a case-by-case basis. At a minimum, though, the change in the child support payment, according to the guidelines, must be at least 15 percent or $50 up or down, whichever amount is greater. Using judicial decisions in earlier cases as a guide, the following types of circumstances are generally accepted as sufficient grounds to justify increasing or decreasing the support obligation:
- an increase or decrease in income for the paying party due to issues like job loss or a promotion, but note that voluntary job loss cannot be the basis for a request to decrease child support;
- the income of the receiving party increases or decreases;
- expenses related to childcare or health insurance change;
- the birth or adoption of subsequent children, but note that this change can only be used to argue against an increase, and not as a basis for requesting a reduction; or
- alimony obligations terminate or child support obligations for other children end, which potentially frees up additional income to pay child support for the remaining minor children.
Best Interest of the Child
The needs of children change as they get older, and while costs for daycare may go away, other expenses related to extracurricular activities and supplies for school tend to get larger. Certainly, it is not necessary that a child participate in every possible activity, but it is important to foster a child’s interest in a few things he/she seems to enjoy. These interests will likely necessitate more money, and could be a basis for a modification in child support. Further, as technology advances and schools require students to obtain pricey items, these extra costs can easily overwhelm a parent, and a modification could be in order if the paying party has the enough income to support a change.
Talk to a Family Law Attorney
If you are a parent that believes a modification of your child support is necessary, talk to a family law attorney to learn if your circumstances would likely persuade a judge to change the amount. While you could ask for the modification on your own, the law contains many nuances in this area that can determine the outcome of your case, so it is best to work with an experienced family law attorney to petition the courts. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. understands the difficulty of these situations and will work to obtain the best possible result for your family. Contact us for a free consultation.