Emotional and Financial Child Support Modifications
Original child support determinations are based on emotional and financial factors. The guidelines, which are presumptively reasonable, rely exclusively on some common financial and emotional factors. Child support deviations are possible in some cases. At any rate, these factors often change. So, as a rule of thumb, it’s best to legally modify child support obligations, either up or down, at least once every three years.
Successful modifications are based on permanent and substantial changes. The party requesting modification has the burden of proof in these situations. More on these things below.
Frequent child support modification keeps the obligation current. Furthermore, informal side agreements in this area are unenforceable. As far as the State of Florida is concerned, the only obligation which matters is the one in the legal paperwork. A good Clearwater family law attorney offers cost-effective solutions in this area that keep your family moving forward.
Florida is an income share child support state. So, the parenting time division is relevant in this area. The guidelines presume that this division is roughly 65-35. That’s the breakdown if the family follows the traditional every-other-weekend/every-other-holiday division.
As children get older and become more independent, this distribution often changes. These changes could affect the proper child support obligation amount.
A brief side note here. The child’s age is never an excuse to unilaterally alter the visitation schedule. “Johnny didn’t want to go see his Dad and I couldn’t make him go” never holds up in court. Parents routinely cajole, bribe, or threaten children so they brush their teeth, do their homework, make up their beds, and do other things they do not want to do.
Any emotional changes must be permanent and substantial. Parenting time pattern changes are typically permanent after about a month. The substantial change usually involves the number of overnights. Changes like additional after-school care typically do not count. Additionally, the number of overnights must be sufficient to change the guideline amounts, if they applied.
Most people change jobs every few years. These job changes usually involve salary adjustments. Additionally, most employers review employee compensation matters every few months. So, financial modifications are much more common than emotional modifications.
The same basic rules apply. The change must be substantial and permanent. Florida law presumes that a “substantial” income change is more than $50 per week. Permanent changes are a bit more difficult to assess, particularly for self-employment income. This income often fluctuates. So, the requesting party must normally establish a history of at least three months.
Evidence of higher income includes lifestyle changes, like a new car, and improved ability to pay bills. Such changes might justify child support decreases as well.
Regardless of the nature of the changes, if the parties present an agreed motion, the judge usually approves it without requiring a hearing. Pre-filing mediation often helps parties reach this agreement. If both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful.
Contact a Tenacious Lawyer
The basis for child support changes over time, so the order should change as well. For a free consultation with an experienced Clearwater child support modification attorney, contact Cairns Law, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.