In a divorce, one parent often has custody of the children, while the other pays child support. Child support is a fixed monthly payment based on the income of both parents as well as the number of children the parent is financially supporting.
Many parents pay this monthly amount for as long as they are ordered to do so (typically until age 18 or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later). However, many parents suffer financial difficulties. They may be unemployed. They may get their hours cut. They may become disabled. Some suffer serious injuries and face expenses such as medical bills that make paying child support a difficult task.
Life happens. The courts understand that a person’s financial situation can change over time. Some people lose their jobs. Others win the lottery, start a business or get a great job that pays them much more.
In these cases, child support payments can be modified to increase or decrease. However, the change will not happen on its own. You will need to request a child support modification through the court. The judge can hear your request and either approve the modification or deny it.
What Circumstances Can Allow Me to Request a Modification?
The parent must have a material change in circumstances in order to request a modification. Modifications can be temporary or permanent.There are many situations in which a child support modification can be requested. A change in income is the most common reason.
There is not a set amount the income must change in order to be eligible for a modification. In the end, though, the child support amount must change by at least 15% or $50.
A lengthy illness or permanent disability could be a reason for modification. So could a job change. In some cases, the needs of the child change, especially as they get older and become more involved in sports and extracurricular activities. Sometimes children develop medical conditions or need dental work, and this would necessitate more child support for the custodial parent. A parent may need more money to pay for health insurance, daycare and other expenses.
A child support modification may also be supported by a change in the amount of parenting time. For example, if the noncustodial parent is refusing to spend time with the child, then the custodial parent would have more custody and should be given more financial support.
It is important to understand that the change can be requested by either parent, and can go up or down. The custodial parent may request more support if they learn that the other parent is earning more money. If the custodial parent loses their job or otherwise sees a reduction in income, he or she may ask the other parent for more financial support. This would be done through a modification.
Once a modification is in place, however, this does not mean that any past child support debts are erased. The parent still has to pay any arrears, retroactive support, delinquency and other costs.
How to Modify Child Support
In Florida, fill out Form 12.905(B) Supplemental Petition For Modification of Child Support and follow the instructions. The form must be filed in the county where the original child support order was filed. The other parent must be notified of the petition through some sort of service. Once they receive the petition, they generally have 20 days to respond.
If no response is received within 20 days, the petitioner can file for Motion for Default with the court clerk. Once all the required paperwork has been submitted, you can schedule an appointment for a final hearing.
If the other parent is in agreement with the terms of your modification, a final hearing can be set. If the petition is contested, and you cannot come to an agreement with the other parent, then you must file a Notice for Trial. In some cases, you may be required to attend mediation before a trial can be set. You should then contact the court clerk to set your case for a final hearing.
What Happens if I do Not Request a Modification?
If you are having financial difficulties and cannot pay your child support on time, do not just simply stop paying it. Child support is a court order and is therefore required by law. If you refuse to pay it, you will be found in contempt of court. You will be ordered to appear in court. If you do not show up, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. Even if you do show up, you could be thrown in jail or face other penalties.
Therefore, once you know that you will not be able to meet your child support obligations, you should seek legal help right away. Your lawyer can help you with a child support modification. By being proactive, you can avoid penalties.
Seek Legal Help
It can be hard to pay any bills, including child support, when you are unemployed or having other financial difficulties. A modification can help you financially support your child while you avoid going into arrears and facing penalties such as jail time.
Whether you are a parent who is struggling to pay child support or a custodial parent who is looking to recover more money from a wealthy parent, Palm Beach divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you understand your options. A modification may be the answer. Call (954) 346-6464 and schedule a consultation today.