As your life changes, you may need to alter your child support agreement. However, knowing when to modify your agreement and how to do it is easier said than done.
How Does Child Support Work?
Florida calculates child support according to an income shares model. This works by calculating an estimate of the amount of money both parents would have spent on their child while married, and then dividing that number between spouses based on their income. For example, together, the parents spent $6,000 on their child per month while married. In divorce, because the father makes a significantly higher income he may pay $4,000 of child support, while the mother pays $2,000.
These numbers may fluctuate due to employment changes, medical costs, or increased household expenses, the result of which could warrant child support modification. Remember that these changes must be substantial and/or ongoing and affect your ability to keep paying child support.
Child Support Modification Basics
The court may agree to a child support modification request based on three situations: income changes, parenting time changes, and/or a change in expenses.
- You may need to modify your child support agreement if your income increases or decreases. There is no limit for how much your income can change, but whatever the amount, the revised child support arrangement should result in an increase or decrease of at least 15% or $50, whichever is greater. In other words, if your income decreases drastically, your new child support agreement should indicate a decrease in payment by 15% of the original amount. So, if you were paying $1,000, the new amount would be $850.
- If there is a substantial change in parenting time, you may need to modify your child support agreement. This means that if you or your ex-spouse deviate from the parenting plan, the court can recalculate child support to reflect these new circumstances. For example, the original parenting plan states that you and your ex-spouse would share time with your child by alternating physical custody every six months. However, if your spouse cannot continue sharing custody of the child for more than three months out of the year, then the court may decide to increase the amount of child support to account for the increased time your child spends with you.
- Significant changes in expenses may require a child support modification. As your children get older and your circumstances change, there may be considerable changes in necessary costs. Taxes and health insurance for you and your child can account for a significant change if your taxes increase drastically or your insurance premiums go up. Childcare can also be a factor for child support modification, but only for parents who require extra care due to their employment status. This does not apply to stay-at-home parents. If your spousal support ends, the court may consider the additional income to be a significant change and adjust your child support obligation.
I Need to Modify My Child Support Agreement
Now that you know for sure whether you need to adjust your agreement, how do you do it? The first step in any complicated legal process is to consult a lawyer. Never attempt to modify your child support agreement without the guidance of a legal representative. They can help you understand your options and draft a new agreement that accurately reflects your circumstances.
You will also need to complete Form 12.905(b), Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child Support. This form is a formal request to the court for a legal adjustment to an existing child support order. If you choose to complete this petition, you must notify the other parent as soon as possible. Depending on their response, your case may either be default, uncontested, or contested.
- If they do not respond within 20 days, you can file a Motion for Default with the court clerk. After you file, you and the other party must attend a hearing to establish a new child support order. This is a default petition.
- Uncontested petitions mean that the other parent responds promptly and agrees with your petition. Once all of the appropriate paperwork is complete, both of you will attend a hearing to finalize your new child support agreement.
- A contested petition indicates that the other parent disagrees with your proposal and files a counterpetition with their own terms, and you are unable to reach a mutual agreement. If this happens, you should file a Notice for Trial along with any required documents to begin the process of resolving your child modification dispute in court. Some courts may require mediation pre-hearing, so it is important to check with the court clerk to make sure you meet all of the requirements for your district. You must reply to the other party’s counterpetition within 20 days.
Regardless of whether your petition is contested, uncontested, or default, you should always consult an attorney before making changes to your child support agreement. The modification process can be tedious, but a lawyer can help you understand the requirements for your case and how to complete the necessary forms for your modification petition.
Speak with our experienced child support modification attorney at The Law Office of Paulette Hamilton, P.A. today.