16 Jan Child Support Modifications: Petitioning a Miami, Florida Family Court
Child Support Modifications in Miami, Florida
Have your child’s support needs risen from the time that you were first awarded support payments? Has your child’s other parent experienced a large increase in their standard of living and your shared child’s remained the same?
Child support remains a very common element in divorced families and co-parenting situations. A child support order is initiated within the courts and often enforced via the Florida Department of Revenue. Frequently, situations change prompting and alteration to the child support arrangement, this is referred to as a child support modification. There are several reasons a modification may be made as well as methods to go about initiating the process.
A Child Support Modification
Simply defined, a child support modification is a change to a child support agreement that is approved by a judge. Either parent can submit a request for a support modification, so long as there are grounds to support it. The change to the agreement must be approved by the judge prior to it being put into place. Modifications can be made based on a temporary basis or as permanent changes. Both modifications require a change, whether temporary or permanent, in the situation of either co-parent.
Why Request a Modification?
There are multiple reasons that a child support modification may be requested. Income remains a huge component of how child support is determined. As such, any significant changes in income are grounds for a modification to a child support order. If a parent loses their job or experiences a drastic income drop, they may find themselves in a situation where they are simply unable to make their child support payments in full. This type of situation represents a financial hardship that warrants a change to a child support order. An income increase can also warrant a child support modification. A new job with greater income can represent ground for a change in the child support order. And, if one of the co-parents marry, greatly increasing the household income, a child support modification may be awarded.
A modification may be indicated if a child’s needs change profoundly. For example, if a child is diagnosed with an illness that requires special care and medical treatment, the child support order may need to be modified to allow for this expense. Or, if a child recovers from an illness, a decrease in child support may be warranted. It’s important to understand that the court does not consider luxury items when evaluating a child support order. Luxury items like private school tuition, extracurricular activities and other non-essentials don’t represent the basic needs of the child and as the court will not recognize such.
If either parent develops a long-term disability, a change in income may result. This type of situation may lead to the need for a child support modification.
Any changes in child support law may require a child support modification. Changes or increases in cost of living are also grounds to initiate a modification.
Temporary situations are also grounds to make a modification in child support. For example, a medical emergency, temporary lay-off, or any other temporary financial hardship represent reason for a change in child support. Temporary modifications are allotted a specific amount of time by the judge before another modification will need to be made, or the previous arrangement is put back into place.
How to Initiate a Modification
Consulting the advice of an experienced family law attorney may be the best, and most logical first step in initiating a child support modification. An attorney can lay out your options and can determine if there are realistic grounds for a modification. Further, he/she can walk you through the entire process and any court proceedings.
A family law attorney may first suggest that you discuss the child support modification with the other parent. If the two of you can come to your own agreement, the entire process is much simpler. A modification of the original agreement is made in writing and then presented to the judge. If both parents agree to the new terms and the new arrangement is fair, the evaluation process of the judge is much more simplified. As long as the child support amount coincides with the state guidelines, the modification has a great chance of being approved.
If both parents disagree about the terms of the modification, one of the parents must ask for a modification hearing in the jurisdiction in which the original agreement was drafted. In this type of situation, both parents are provided with the opportunity to present evidence to support their position as well as argue about why the modification is or is not appropriate. The parent who requests the change will have to prove that something about their situation has changed; job, income, illness, etc. The court will review the testimony from both parties and make a determination as to the modification.
The Court Process for Petitioning for Higher Child Support Payments in Florida
In order to request a modification of child support payments in Florida Family Court, you must first draft a modification pleading that specifically requests higher child support payments. Next, you will need to provide proper notice to the other parent of the petition. After that is complete you will need to set a hearing with the Florida Family Court (in Miami-Dade it is the 11th Circuit. At the hearing, you will need to put on a showing of substantial evidence to the family court in support of the child support modification.
Don’t Wait to Initiate a Support Modification
If, as the paying parent, you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to make the payments, be sure to make a modification request right away. If you fail to make your payments without notification to the court, not only does it reflect poorly on you, but the payments don’t go away. Eventually, you will have to pay them. They are unable to be discharged in bankruptcy, and the judge is unable to go back and make a reduction based on your situation. First attempt to agree to a modification with the other parent. If the other parent is not agreeable, it’s really important to file for a modification as soon as you are unable to make your payments. This can help you by ensuring that you don’t find yourself in a predicament with thousands of dollars owed without the financial means to pay it back.
Child support modifications are not made with the intentions of being frequent occurrences. Most states have time limits set in place to prevent parents from making modifications too frequently. Some time limits are as long as five years depending on the nature of the request. If a request is to be made, the court wants to ensure that it is legitimate, warranted and that an additional request is not going to be made very shortly after unless there is a significant change of circumstances that were not anticipated at the time of the prior modification (or initiation) of support payments.
As with all family legal situations, the advice of a family law attorney is recommended. Divorce, child support and child custody issues all represent complex, and very involved legal cases. Having professional aid can ensure that your needs are met in court.
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