Florida Court Reverses Ruling Denying a Child Support Modification

Florida law dictates that parents must support their children financially. As such, in many instances in which parents share custody of a child, the Florida courts will order one parent to pay the other child support. In recognition of the fact that circumstances often change over time, the law permits parties to request modifications to child support orders as well. As discussed in a recent opinion delivered in a Florida child support case, such a request should be granted if the requesting party demonstrates a substantial and lasting change in their financial situation. If you need assistance with a child support dispute, it is wise to contact a Miami child support attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Setting

Reportedly, the parties were married in 2004 and had two children during their marriage. After ten years of marriage, they divorced. The final judgment of dissolution incorporated the parties’ parenting plan and marital settlement agreement, which stipulated, in part, that neither party would be obligated to pay child support because they had equal timesharing and similar incomes at the time of the agreement.

Allegedly, in 2018, the wife filed a petition for modification, alleging a substantial decrease in her income since the final judgment, making it impossible for her to afford their children’s needs. She further asserted that the husband’s income had substantially increased since the divorce and asked the trial court to modify the judgment to require the Former Husband to pay child support following the statutory guidelines. The court denied her request, and she appealed.

Grounds for Child Support Modifications in Florida

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that in order to modify child support, a petitioner must demonstrate three elements: a substantial change in circumstances that was not contemplated at the time of the final judgment and that is sufficient, material, permanent, and involuntary.

In the subject case, the wife argued that the substantial changes were a decrease in her income and an increase in the husband’s income, which impacted their ability to support their children. However, the trial court dismissed the petition without hearing evidence on these issues and erroneously concluded that the husband’s willingness to pay for the children’s needs was sufficient.

The court emphasized that a substantial increase in the ability of one party to pay is sufficient to justify a modification of child support, as established by Florida Supreme Court precedent. Similarly, the court noted that a decrease in the wife’s income qualified as a substantial change in circumstances. Thus, the trial court’s decision not to hear evidence or address the basis of the petition constituted an error, and the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Seasoned Miami Attorney

The Florida courts should grant a request for a modification of a child support order upon showing of a substantial change in the financial situations of the parties, and if they fail to do so, it may constitute an error. If you are interested in learning more about your rights with regard to child support, it is smart to meet with an attorney. The seasoned Miami family law lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have ample experience navigating the complexities of child support disputes, and if we represent you, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to arrange a meeting.