Articles Posted in Modification (Child Support)

An ex-husband successfully secured primary physical custody of the four children he shared with his ex-wife, but failed to persuade a trial court to order his ex-wife to pay child support on all four children. That’s because a governmental agency already paid a monthly stipend for the fourth child and, since the trial court’s custody modification order gave that stipend to the husband, a Florida appeals court determined that it was not improper to refrain from making the ex-wife pay child support on that child.

J.L.B. and his wife, S.J.B., divorced in 2008. Initially following the divorce, the wife held primary physical custody of the children. Following an incident in which the Florida Department of Children and Families removed the couple’s children from the wife’s home, the husband asked an Orange County court to give him sole custody of the children or, at least, make him the primary physical custodian. The court agreed and ordered that the husband receive majority time-sharing within a joint custody arrangement.

As part of this ruling, the court also assessed a child support obligation to the wife. The husband promptly appealed the child support portion of the court’s ruling. The husband argued that the trial made an error by calculating the wife’s support obligation based on three children, when the couple shared custody of four children.
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A father’s attempt to avail himself to statutorily-dictated child support modification failed due to an earlier decision the man made, which ultimately proved costly. The man had previously consented to a marital settlement agreement that contained a waiver of his right to seek a child support modification based upon the parents’ time-sharing schedule, according to the Second District Court of Appeal. The father’s unfavorable decision spotlights the extreme importance of understanding all the ramifications of the terms of a settlement agreement.

Two years after a couple divorced in 2003, the couple created a supplement to their marital settlement agreement that altered the husband’s child support and alimony payments, and specifically stated that the agreement’s visitation arrangements could not be construed as the children’s spending 40% of their time with the father. This percentage was important to clarify, because Section 61.30(11)(b)(10) of the Florida Statutes allows a parent to seek a modification of his child support obligation if his children spend 40% or more of their overnights with him.

In 2012, the father requested a downward adjustment in his child support based upon the alleged fact that the children spent 42% of their time with him. The mother argued that, under the terms of the supplemental settlement agreement, the father waived his right to seek such a reduction.
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Parents filing to establish or modify child support has increased the burden on Florida’s marital and family law court system. Child support hearing offices have been working overtime. Unfortunately, the court system can not deal with the increased demand without more employees. However, this seems unlikely given budget cuts in the state of Florida.

A parent in Broward that is trying to establish child support may have to wait up to six months for a hearing. In addition, parents requesting a modification of child support because of wage cuts or unemployment may have to wait up to three months for a hearing. In Florida, child support modification cases, specifically downward modifications, have increased by 50% since 2006. Broward Circuit Court Judge Susan Greenhawt who hears marital and family law cases including, but not limited to, divorce and paternity, believes that these type of cases really need to be heard since generally there is a contempt motion pending at the same time.

In some cases, individuals are unable to afford to hire a child support lawyer in Fort Lauderdale and proceed on their own. They use online forms, question the clerks and often forget important documents at their hearing. At the hearing, they often ask the court to appoint a lawyer since they can not afford one. Unfortunately, they have to do the best they can and often have their cases dismissed until they can present their case properly.

What happens if the Fort Lauderdale divorce judge has ordered you to make alimony or child support payments and you no longer can pay the amount? Do not neglect your payment obligation. Go back to the Broward County divorce court and file a petition for a downward modification of your child support and/or alimony. Whether you are paying child support or temporary, rehabilitative or permanent alimony, if you stop making payments, the marital and family law judge in Fort Lauderdale may hold you in contempt of court which means you could end up behind bars at the Broward County jail.

With the economy the way it is today, a number of spouses are finding it exceedingly difficult to make their payments. If you are the payor spouse and you are making less money than you were at the time of your support determination, you may have legal grounds to petition the court for a downward modification. If you are the receiving spouse it is wise to draft a new agreement with your ex detailing the percentage of downward modification and the length of time this modification will be in effect. Both parties should consult their attorneys and come up with a modification agreement so that the children and the parents are financially stable.

The statutory grounds for modification of alimony are found in section 61.14(1) of the Florida Statutes. When the parties enter into an agreement or the court orders alimony payments, and sometime later the financial ability or the circumstances change then either spouse may request the court for modification of alimony or child support payments. The party who petitions for a change in alimony must show that a substantial change has occurred. Showing a reduction in the payor’s income alone will not justify modification. The change must be involuntary and there must be no other funds in the payor spouse’s possession that could be used to keep current with the alimony obligation

In Rose v. Rose the Fourth District of Appeals recently reviewed a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage entered by Judge Renne Goldenberg, a divorce judge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The father appealed the trial court’s order granting the mother’s request for an extension of the father’s child support obligation until their daughter graduated from high school. The Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court located in Broward County, Florida.

In 1994 when the parties were divorced, they had agreed that the father would pay child support for each minor child until “they reach the age of majority, marry, die, graduate from high school or becomes self supporting, whichever occurs first.” Three months before their daughter reached the age of majority, the mother petitioned the court for modification of child support. Because their daughter would turn eighteen while still in high school, the mother requested the court extend the father’s obligation until the child graduated from high school. The trial court granted the mother’s request and entered summary judgment for her concluding that the child’s passage to majority while still in high school constitutes a substantial change not contemplated by the parties.

In order to modify your child support obligation, a party seeking modification must prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances and must show that this change is significant, material, involuntary and permanent in nature. Here, the parents had specifically contemplated in their marital settlement agreement the time when the father’s support obligation would terminate. The Fourth District Court of Appeals did not agree that the parents had failed to contemplate their child reaching the age of majority before graduation when the parties listed this as an event that would terminate the child support obligation. Finally, the court explained that the parent’s obligation to support their children is limited to their minority and dependency except as provided for in Florida Statute, § 743. 07(2).