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Changing Family Law Orders In The Sunshine State

On average, most people relocate about twelve times in their adult lifetimes; a majority of these moves occur between ages 18 and 45. Since many people in this age group also have minor children, a relocation often means that a motion to modify a marriage dissolution or child custody order is necessary.

Many parents in these situations are tempted to rely on informal “side agreements” with the other parent, when it comes to things like support, custody, visitation, and other divorce matters. Such reliance is nearly always a mistake, because even if these agreements are written, they are not enforceable by a family court judge. In most cases, it is only a matter of time before Parent A wants to “go back to the way things were before,” and Parent B has no recourse whatsoever.

Custody Modification

The law, or more precisely, the way the law is interpreted, recently changed in this area. Prior to 2005’s Wade v. Hirschman, many courts added an additional requirement to Section 61.13 of the Florida Statutes. In addition to a “substantial change in circumstances,” both the Second and Third Districts required persons seeking a modification to prove detriment. For example, in a case from the Second District, the appeals court overturned a modification that was based on the child’s age and preference, because the father did not offer evidence regarding the mother’s unfitness.

Wade expressly overruled the two-prong approach, because the statute makes no mention of a more in-depth test and the “detrimental” element may have been an attempt to reinstate the long debunked “tender years” doctrine, which held that young children nearly always went with their mothers with no questions asked.

Child Support Modification

Either party may request a modification based on changed circumstances. Additionally, the party requesting modification must prove that the change was or is:

  • Made in Good Faith: A person cannot leave one job and accept a lower-paying one for the purpose of reducing a child support obligation. As a rule of thumb there must be at least two or three other reasons, such as better hours, closer to family, better work environment, or related matters.
  • Permanent: A one-time bonus or temporary job are not grounds for modification, because the parties would have to come back in a few months and change the order again.
  • Unanticipated: Roughly the same logic applies to expected changes.

A reduced child support obligation is usually not retroactive, although an increase may be, in some cases.

Spousal Support Modification

Most types of alimony, with the notable exception of bridge-the-gap support, can be modified based on changed circumstances. Moreover, rehabilitative support can be modified if the obligee spouse (person receiving support) either completes the rehabilitation plan early or fails to follow it.

Durational and permanent alimony automatically end if the obligor spouse (person paying support) dies or the obligee spouse remarries. Also, payments may be modified if the obligee spouse enters into a “supportive relationship” with another person.

Partner with Aggressive Attorneys

Most family law orders must be changed periodically to accurately reflect the family’s current situation. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Lucie County and nearby jurisdictions.

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