Employment-Based Divorce Modifications In Florida
Most Americans change jobs at least ten or fifteen times during their adult lives. Since many of these job changes occur prior to age 40, a number of them also involve child custody and child support issues. As a result, a divorce order may need to be modified after every one of these moves.
A job change often means different hours or a different commute time. To account for the changes in parenting time, many people make informal agreements between themselves. While it is nearly always a good idea to work out differences without going to court, these side agreements are not enforceable. So, if one party unilaterally reneges on the agreement, for whatever reason, the other party has no remedy.
Unilateral income-based child support adjustments are also a bad idea. Even if the obligor makes the payments that would be required under the guidelines, the state still shows a delinquency and it will begin collections efforts. This procedure usually ends in a child support lien, wage garnishment, or even jail time.Similarly, if the obligor’s new job pays more, voluntary increases are not enforceable in court.
Custody and Visitation Modification
If the parties agree on the modification terms, the agreement is nearly always binding if it is in the proper form and filed with the court; there is normally no hearing required. Conversely, if the other spouse does not agree, the party who wants to change the custody or visitation terms must file a motion to modify. The judge will normally grant the modification if:
- Changed Circumstances: The change must be “substantial,” a word that the statute does not really define. Furthermore, the change must have been unanticipated at the time the prior order was signed.
- Best Interests: To determine the children’s best interests, the judge looks at a number of factors, including the capability and commitment of the parents, child’s preference, stability, and other factors.
Only the court that entered the prior order has jurisdiction to modify it, unless someone files a motion to transfer.
To change the child support amount, there must be a substantial change in circumstances, a phrase that has different meanings in different contexts.
- Income: Changes of more than 15 percent or $50 a month are “substantial” as a matter of law, and a judge is not likely to approve anything less. Furthermore, income-based reductions must be brought in good faith, because an obligor cannot take a lower-paying job to evade child support.
- Parenting Time: There is no hard-and-fast rule, but most judges see “substantial” change as a few days a month as opposed to a few hours a month.
Changed expenses, such as daycare costs, can also justify a motion to modify support. Generally, motions for increase are retroactive to the date of filing and motions for decrease take effect only at the moment the judge signs them.
Contact Assertive Attorneys
If you change jobs, you probably need to change your divorce order as well. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.