Articles Posted in Modification

Are you a Florida resident struggling to pay child support? Are you paying too much child support?  Are you now making less money than you made when the child support was ordered? Have you lost a job due to no fault of your own?  Do you now pay court ordered child support for a child from a separate relationship? If so, you may qualify for a reduction in your child support. A Florida child support lawyer can assist you today with seeking a modification of your current child support order.  The amount of monthly child support that each child is entitled to receive is pre-determined by Florida law.  The courts determine the correct amount of child support by combining the income of both parents for a total amount of monthly net income. Based on the total amount of income from both sides, a pre-determined amount of child support is awarded for the care of a child.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

In Florida, the amount of child support each parent must pay is predetermined by law. The Florida Child Support Guidelines determine how much child support should be awarded based on the total monthly net income of both parents. For example, if parent 1 makes $2500 a month and parent 2 makes $3500 a month in net income then the combined amount of net income is $6000. Florida child support guidelines state that for a combined net income of $6,000, the amount of child support to be paid for one child should be $1,121.00.   The monthly pre-determined child support amount may be offset by the costs of health insurance being paid for the minor child, the cost of daycare /childcare / before-after school care/fees, and timesharing or the total number of overnights each parent has with the child.  Once these amounts are calculated in, the final child support amount is determined. If the amount you are paying is too much, let your Jacksonville child support lawyer help you reduce your child support by seeking a modification of your current child support order.

The question as to whether or not an individual needs an attorney to divorce in Florida is simple if we review the question literally.  You can get a divorce in Florida without an attorney.  However, it may be unwise to attempt to be divorced without an attorney.

Why Should I Use an Attorney?

The author believes that an attorney is essential if you are attempting to obtain a divorce.  This may sound like a self serving statement, but the author thinks there are numerous reasons that one should use an attorney to guide them through the process.  The author feels that having an attorney keeps otherwise Pro Se (self represented) clients forging ahead and not getting side tracked by discovery issues and other procedural problems regularly encountered and routinely dealt with by attorneys.

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The general rule in Florida is that child support terminates when a child reaches 18 years of age.  However, the general rule does not apply when child support is still owed for any time prior to the child’s reaching adult legal status.  Under those circumstances, the custodial parent generally retains the right to collect on the overdue balance owed.  In terms of procedure, to collect any outstanding child support payments, the custodial parent must obtain a Court order signed by a Judge.  Even if the debtor parent is not currently able to make the payments, the Court order preserves the right of the custodial parent to make a claim on future money earned for back child support.  To make sure that a Court order is properly obtained, custodial parents in Jacksonville would benefit from retaining the services of an experienced Jacksonville family attorney.

Florida Also Provides an Exception in Instances When a Child of Legal Age Has Not Yet Graduated from High School

Florida’s child support statute found at Florida Statute §61.30, also contains a provision that extends child support until the child graduates from high school, if there is a reasonable expectation of graduating before his or her 19th birthday.  If there is no reasonable expectation that the child will graduate before their 19th birthday, child support will terminate automatically upon the child turning 18 years old.

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Many divorcing parents and single parents are aware of their obligation to support their children, and some are familiar with how the amount they must pay is decided.  Fewer are aware of how long the obligation to support their children continues.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you with understanding all of the nuances of child support.

Payment Lasts Until the Child Reaches Majority Age

In general, a parent must pay child support until the child is 18 years old.  This is considered the age of majority or when the child is recognized as an adult.  However, a child’s eighteenth birthday isn’t always the cutoff date for support payments.  According to Florida law, a parent’s duty to continue paying child support may be extended when the child has not finished high school by their eighteenth birthday; when the child has special needs; and when there is an agreement that says otherwise.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in determining what your obligation will be based on your particular circumstances.

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Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution that is mandatory in a Florida divorce, paternity, or modification case, but many people do not see the process as the benefit it is.  During mediation, the two parties will meet with a mediator who is an unbiased and uninterested person in the case.  The mediator will try and help the parties resolve all disputes related to the family law case.  If an agreement is reached, it is drafted and submitted to the Court for approval so the case can be closed.  While the process is straightforward, there are still many myths related to the process.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in understanding the mediation process.  Below are the biggest myths about family law mediation in Florida, and the truth behind them.

The Mediator Will Make All the Decisions

This is simply untrue.  Mediators do not make any of the decisions when they meet with parties going through a divorce, paternity, or modification case.  They cannot force either party to do, or not do, anything.  Instead, they are only there to help you and facilitate you and your spouse, ex-spouse, or co-parent to reach an agreement.  If you cannot reach an agreement and your case requires litigation, it is the Judge that will make all the decisions.  Your Jacksonville family attorney is here to assist you in mediation and to represent you in any litigation should you not reach agreement.

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This is a question that is often asked by custodial parents.  If you live in Florida the answer is yes.  Florida has a relocation statute, and it is found at §61.13001 in the Florida Statutes.  If you have a minor child and you are divorced or no longer in a relationship with the other parent, you cannot move more than 50 miles from the current residence without obtaining permission from the other parent or consent from the Court.  This condition applies to both the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in determining how you can comply with the relocation statute to enable you to move.

The statute requires that unless there is an agreement between the parties, a parent or other person with time-sharing rights seeking relocation must file a petition to relocate and serve it upon the other parent, and every other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child.  The pleadings must meet the following requirements:

a)  The petition to relocate must be signed under oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury and include:

If Your License is suspended for Child Support Obligations, What Can You Do?

Florida law allows one’s driver’s license to be suspended when they fail to meet their support obligation.  If your license is suspended as a result of child support obligations that are not satisfied, you should understand the law.  If one truly cannot pay their obligation because they simply do not have the financial resources to do so, your license cannot be suspended, but you must act promptly.

Your License Can Be Suspended for Child Support Failures

Few people want to accept responsibility for a lifelong obligation that they were not responsible for.  There is more than one way under Florida law to create a parental relationship with a child.  Not all relationships in today’s society follow the model that involved a two parent family whereby the husband was the bread winner and the wife was a stay at home mother.  Today, the norm has changed, and single parent households are much more commonplace than they were traditionally. 

There are a number of ways that paternity can be established.  When a woman is married and she becomes pregnant, there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father.  This is true even where the husband could not physically have impregnated the wife.  Section 742.10 of the Florida Statutes covers all of the ways that paternity of a child can be established.  In short, paternity can be established when a married woman has a child, by consent, by court order, or by the legal father signing the birth certificate and notarized documents admitting paternity. 

When a woman has a child out of wedlock and applies for governmental assistance, she may find that the agency or agencies she is applying through will require her to participate in a legal proceeding to establish the paternity of the child.  In part, this is because the government wants to make the father responsible for supporting the child.  Both parents are responsible for their child and a father or mother can be required to support their child until they reach majority.  In some rare cases, they may have legal responsibility beyond the age of majority.  The author of this article has handled numerous child support cases over the last 16 years and he has seen some people have their lives wrecked after they were required to pay child support (an Obligor).  When an Obligor discovers that the child they are supporting is not theirs, disestablishing paternity may be an option for them.  Although disestablishing paternity will terminate an ongoing support obligation, it will not extinguish any child support obligation which has accrued.  Even when disestablishing paternity is successful, an otherwise Obligor may still have to pay a large arrearage. 

It is important to know your rights following a divorce.  The final judgment of dissolution and the parenting plan determine the legal playing field for the future.  However, most issues are dynamic.  Children get older and their schools change and sometimes their relationship with parents change.  Incomes change, which can directly impact child support and people sometimes desire to relocate where child custody can be an issue.  There are a myriad of circumstances that should be re-evaluated following divorce. 

In Florida, the standard used to file an action to modify a final judgment is that a substantial change in circumstances occurred that was not anticipated at the time of entry of the final judgment.  It does not always make practical sense to file an action to modify a final judgment just because a party can do so.  The relationship that a party has with a former spouse is important, especially where children are involved.  Every time a party considers filing a supplemental petition (this is the instrument filed requesting modification of a final judgment), one should consider how such will impact their relationship with their former spouse and other legal consequences.  I frequently have parties coming to me that wish to file for a modification.  I typically find that they have only evaluated a part of the effect of seeking a modification.  For this reason, it is imperative that one review the ramifications of an action for modification with an experienced family law attorney.

Although a divorce is designed to deal with all of the legal issues concerning dissolution, the reality is that there are sometimes issues that are left unresolved.  On occasion there are assets that neither party put on their financial affidavits that require addressing post dissolution.  One example of such an issue involved a divorce of a long time married couple in which neither party included the child’s prepaid college fund account on their financial affidavit.  The fund was cashed out by the Father/Former Husband after the divorce without permission from the court or the Mother/Former Wife.  Since the asset was not listed on either party’s financial affidavit, the judge considered the asset marital property and ordered the Former Husband to pay back one half of the funds post dissolution.

For some, child support is an ongoing obligation that holds no light at the end of a long tunnel that can extend over 18 years.  Every situation is different and the answer as to when child support will end depends on your individual situation.  An experienced North Florida Family Law Attorney can review your circumstances and help you obtain the best result for you under the law.  

The answer to when child support ends is far from a black and white question in Florida.  Conceptually, child support is the right of each child.  Therefore, courts are reluctant to enter an order that does not provide for child support.  As a practicing Family Law Attorney, I have encountered many individuals that believe that parents can simply agree that child support will not be provided for in a final judgment of dissolution or paternity.  In Florida, a statutory guideline exists to determine what is presumptively reasonable for a parent to pay for child support.  The court can depart from the statutory amount by up to 5%, but there must be specific findings of fact enumerated in the order to justify any departure beyond the 5%, up or down.  

Under current law, when two or more children are provided for in a support order, that order must include provisions detailing when the support obligation terminates for each child.  There should be a modification of the income deduction order to reflect the changes.  There are circumstances that allow child support to continue past the age of 18.  If a child is still in high school at age 18 with a reasonable chance of graduating before age 19, child support may continue through graduation.  Where a child graduates high school prior to his or her 19th birthday, support ends at age 18.  If a child becoming an adult has a disability that would result in the child continuing to be a dependent, child support could continue indefinitely.  There are other less conventional reasons that child support might end, the death of a child, the emancipation of a child, or a situation where a child is earning enough money that no support is required (this would be a rare occasion, but there are numerous child stars that have earned more than their parents).  Under Florida Law, the only circumstance where one would be obligated to support a healthy adult child beyond the age of 19, would be where an Obligor agrees to such a duty in a contract (i.e. marital settlement agreement). 

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