Articles Posted in Child support modification

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Do you have a divorce case, a paternity case, or a supplemental petition for modification of alimony or child support pending before the court?   If you have answered yes to this question, you need to be sure that you have “clean hands” when you proceed to court with your case.

What in the world does this mean “clean hands”?   “Clean hands” simply means that you must act in good faith when you appear in court.  You cannot expect to be rewarded for bad behavior when you appear in court.  You must act in good faith, “have your house in order”, and be candid and honest with the Court.  This is what “clean hands” means.

The clean hands doctrine frequently arises in supplemental petitions for modification of alimony or child support.  A party may be seeking to reduce the previously ordered obligation for support, based upon a change in their financial circumstances.  Often times these individuals will have a large, accrued balance, of either child support or alimony arrears.  If you fall into this category and proceed to court seeking relief,  you better have a good explanation as to why you have not been paying the previously ordered amounts for either alimony or child support.

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A financial affidavit must be filed in an initial divorce proceeding as well as in supplemental dissolution proceedings.  Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.285 (e)(1) requires the service and filing of a financial affidavit in supplemental dissolution proceedings within 45 days of service of the initial pleading on the respondent.

In child support modification proceedings, Florida Statute 61.30(14) provides that the respondent shall include his or her financial affidavit with the answer to the petition no later than 72 hours prior to any hearing regarding the finances of either party.

The requirement to provide a financial affidavit in supplemental proceedings cannot be waived by the parties.

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The legal system recognizes that children are generally incapable of adequately supporting themselves and, therefore, parents are required to provide financial support. In cases in which two parents are no longer together, one parent generally has the obligation to pay regular child support to the other parent. When a child reaches the age of 18, he or she is considered an adult and child support obligations generally cease.

There are two important exceptions under Florida law to the rule that child support terminates on the child’s 18th birthday and these exceptions are as follows:

  • The child is 18, lives at home, attends high school, and there is reasonable expectation that the child will graduate before their 19th birthday; or
  • The child is over 18 but remains dependent on their parents because of mental or physical incapacity that started when they were younger than 18.

The second exception is important for any parents of children who are either born with a disabling condition, develop a condition during childhood, or who sustained a catastrophic injury that left them unable to care for themselves. Continue reading

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Situations change and individuals can go through unexpected periods of financial downturn. Losing your job, having a medical emergency in your household, and many other similar events can make it difficult to cover your bills. In such times, you may also struggle to make your court-ordered child support payments.

The court orders a certain amount of child support based on your situation at the time of the ruling, and the courts do not attempt to anticipate your future financial circumstances. Therefore, if you lose income or your other expenses increase, it is understandable that paying child support may become challenging or even impossible in the future. Unfortunately, failing to pay child support can have serious consequences in Florida, but you have legal options to try to make your child support more manageable to avoid these consequences.

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A modification of child support, or alimony as well, is based upon an unforseen, involuntary, permanent and substantial change in circumstances. Florida statute 61.14 provides the statutory basis for a modification of child support and alimony.

If the court, after entertaining a petition for modification of support, either upward or downward, finds that there was a change in circumstances, or the financial position of either party has changed, the court can enter an order, retroactive to the date of filing the petition, granting the modification.

Often times it takes a considerable amount of time to have a matter scheduled for hearing before the court. The length of time varies between the particular judge and the courthouse in which the petition is pending.