How Your Back-owed Child Support May Impact Your Modification Request in Florida

If you’re a parent paying child support, while you undoubtedly desire to provide for your children, avoiding overpaying is also important, since being forced to overpay may impair your ability to be involved in your children’s lives in other ways, as well as impeding your ability to meet other financial obligations. That’s why it is often very important to understand the situations and criteria under which Florida law lets you go to court to seek a reduction in your child support obligation. One circumstance that can derail an otherwise valid petition for reducing child support is having a willful arrearage, as one Manatee County father found out in a case decided by the 2d District Court of Appeal recently.

When a Florida couple divorced in 2009, the husband was ordered to pay child support. By the spring of 2012, the husband had fallen behind, amassing a total child support arrearage in excess of $11,700. The husband was held in contempt of court at that time. Nearly a year and a half later, the husband returned to court seeking to reduce his child support obligation. The wife countered by asking the court to increase the child support amount and offered evidence that the husband’s back-owed child support amount had swelled to more than $24,000.

The trial court sided with the husband and lowered the support amount. The wife appealed, however, and won. The wife’s appellate counsel persuaded the appeals court that the husband was not entitled to a reduction of his child support because he had what the law describes as “unclean hands.” As it relates to child support or alimony obligations, the doctrine of unclean hands says that, if you are willfully in default on your support payments, you are not entitled to seek judicial relief in the form of a reduction in your support amount.

In this case, the husband never proved that he was unable to pay his child support. His evidence submitted to the trial court included several financial documents, at least some of which showed that his monthly income exceeded the amount of his monthly bills and obligations. Yet, in spite of this monthly surplus, the husband was making no appreciable effort to pay his child support. The husband never provided to the trial court a reasonable explanation for how he allowed his child support obligation to fall more than $24,000 in arrears. In light of this evidence of non-payment and lack of evidence of an inability to pay, the husband was in willful default, and the doctrine of “unclean hands” applied to him, thus making the doors of court closed to him with regard to lowering his child support obligation.

Navigating the process of modification of child support or alimony is often complex, requiring several specific types of proof in order to qualify to receive a reduction. This process becomes even more complicated if you have unpaid back-owed support, but in some situations, you can still succeed in your request. To obtain skilled and reliable representation in your child support case, consult the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our lawyers can help you present your case to obtain a fair outcome.

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

More blog posts:

Father Required to Pay Interest on Arrearage Before Child Support Case Can Be Closed, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 26, 2015
Jurisdiction Rules Prevent Father From Modifying Child Support in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 24, 2014