Parents often express a desire to modify or suspend their child support obligation. The reason for the desire often varies, I’ve heard things such as, the other parent doesn’t mind not receiving support, the child support amount is financially taxing, the child doesn’t need that much money, or that there has been a change in the financial ability to support the child. While the desire to change the child support obligation may be for any of the listed reasons or for another reason entirely, one must understand that a Florida court will grant a modification of child support in the instance that there is a substantial change in circumstances upon which a modification would be granted. It is important to realize that while many of the reasons listed above may seem like valid reasons to modify the child support obligation, most of them would be invalid reasons alone to justify a modification. The most legally sufficient example for a modification, of the examples provided, would be that there has been a change in either party’s financial ability to support the child.
Fla. Statute 61. 30 (1) (b) provides a bit of insight into what constitutes a substantial change in circumstances to warrant a modification of child support. The statute explains that “… a substantial change in circumstances upon which a modification of an existing order may be granted. However, the difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines shall be at least 15 percent or $50.00, whichever amount is greater, before the court may find the guidelines provide a substantial change in circumstances.” A substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification comes in various forms. However, it is essential to recalculate the child support amount based on the changed circumstances and determine if the case has validity for a modification at the outset of the case. A change in either party’s income, a change in timesharing, changes with healthcare, and retirement are all on their face changes in circumstances, but the changes must cause a shift to the child support obligation beyond 15% of the current child support award or $50.00, whichever is greater. When parties earning a higher combined monthly gross income the child support guidelines, typically, do not adjust downward or upward as easily as they do when parties have a lower combined monthly gross income. For example, for a family with a combined parental income of $20,000 if one party began receiving an additional $4,000 a month, based on a variety of other factors daycare costs, health insurance, timesharing, etc., that increase in income may not constitute a “substantial change in circumstances” to a degree of 15% of the current child support obligation. Whereas, a family with an original combined income of $6,000 a party who receives an additional $1,000 a month, is a more likely circumstance to cause the child support guidelines to shift to the degree of $50.00 or 15%, whichever is greater. The reason circumstances like this occur, is because the needs of a child, under the Child Support Guidelines, eventually reaches a cap. The cap is based on the statutory standard needs of a child. While the Child Support Guidelines offer a wonderful resource for setting minimums for child support amounts, these amounts can be deviated from based on the circumstances and following a motion by one of the parties.
If you are contemplating requesting a modification of your current Child Support award or obligation contact Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. to help you determine if your case would support an upward or downward modification of child support.