Terms of Settlement Agreement Block Husband’s Effort to Obtain Statutory Child Support Modification

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┬ádivorced 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.

The Second DCA agreed. The court decided that the language in the agreement, taken in context, made it clear that the couple intended that the amount of time the children spent with the father would have no effect on the amount of child support the father owed. The agreement was clear with regard to the flat amount of child support the father owed, and that the father waived any statutory adjustments he would have been entitled. The court determined that the only possibly explanation for including the term about time-sharing was to indicate that the father had waived his right to seek an adjustment under Section 61.30(11)(b)(10).

The court also rejected the father’s argument that the downward adjustment of Section 61.30(11) was mandatory. The court explained that, although the adjustment generally is mandatory, a parent may waive that right as part of a settlement agreement. When a parent agrees to that kind of waiver, the adjustment is not mandatory. The parent owing child support can only receive the adjustment if a substantial change in circumstances warranted the court’s ignoring the parent’s father, and the father in this case failed to show such a substantial change.

Marital settlement agreements are complicated devices because their terms may have long-lasting effects. A provision that may seem like a good idea in the short term may have severe negative consequences down the road. That is why it is essential to work with experienced counsel before signing any marital settlement agreement. To make sure your proposed settlement agreement adequately protects you and your rights, talk to the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. They have years of experience assisting people throughout the Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade area and are ready to advise you about your proposed divorce settlement and, when necessary, fight to defend your rights. Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Orders Husband to Pay Wife’s Attorney’s Fees in Child Support Battle, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 17, 2013
Judge Orders No More Children for Deadbeat Dad, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 30, 2013