Court Sends North Florida Father’s Parenting Plan, Child Support Case Back for Recalculation of Parents’ Incomes

A recent case originating in Jacksonville led the 1st District Court of Appeal to throw out part of a trial court’s decision to modify a parenting plan and calculate child support. The evidence in the case did not show that a substantial change in circumstances had taken place to warrant a plan modification, and there was also insufficient evidence to support the manner in which the trial court calculated each parent’s income in arriving at the father’s support obligation amount.

The case centered around the daughter of T.B. (father) and V.B. (mother), a couple who divorced in 2005. In 2011, the father sought to amend the parenting plan. He also filed a motion asking the court to lower his child support obligation.

The court order addressing these requests generally refused the changes that the father sought. The court did, however, make some changes to the parenting plan. The modified plan allowed both parents to attend all of the daughter’s school events, gave the daughter the choice as to whether or not to continue attending counseling, gave the child “unmonitored access” to a smartphone the mother had given her, and also set up specific sleeping arrangements for the times when the daughter was at the father’s house.

The father appealed to challenge both the decision on the parenting plan as well as the trial court’s calculation of child support. The appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision to deny the father’s requesting plan changes, but it struck down the four modifications the trial court made to the plan. In order for a court to make any kind of modification of a parenting plan, the court must first find the presence of evidence demonstrating a change in circumstances that warrants the changes to the plan. That change must be “substantial, material, and unanticipated.” The modification must also be in the best interests of the child.

In this case, there was not enough evidence that any change had occurred that would qualify as “substantial, material, and unanticipated.” Based upon that, the trial court should not have made any changes to the parenting plan.

The father’s appeal on the child support issue proved successful, since the appeals court found that the trial court’s calculation methodology was flawed in several regards. One issue was the father’s business expenses. Under the statutes, income “used for business purposes is not considered income for purposes of chapter 61,” which includes child support. The trial court had credited the father for exactly one-half of his claimed business expenses, even though the evidence indicated that, of the expenses he claimed as business, some were 50-50 business and personal, and some were 100% business expenses. Giving the father credit for only 50% was too low.

Additionally, the trial court calculated the wife’s income at $57,000, even though she testified that, when factoring in her supplemental income, she had a total income of between $80,000 and $99,000 in three of the four previous years. Based upon these issues, the appeals court concluded that the lower court’s support calculation lacked sufficient competent evidence to support it.

Ensuring that your family has a workable plan for all is essential in any family court case. This may mean going to court to seek out a parenting plan and a child support amount that is appropriate and fair to all. For thoughtful solutions and determined advocacy regarding your family law issues, contact the South Florida divorce attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have helped many others in similar situations and are ready and equipped to aid you.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

How to Obtain a Custody Modification in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 11, 2015

South Florida Political Consultant Convinces Court 2012 Income Was an Anomaly, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 4, 2015