“Modification” refers to when a party seeks to change a part of their final judgment and, in family law, it usually refers to alimony, child support, or time-sharing/parental responsibility. Each matter has its own separate standard under Florida law:
Modification of Alimony
Alimony is support, paid by one spouse to the other, pursuant to a court order. In some cases, as time goes on, one or both spouses may experience a change that makes either the duration or the amount of alimony (or both) no longer appropriate. At that point, either party may petition the court for a change in either the duration or the amount of the alimony (all dependent on the type of alimony you pay/receive, the details of the court’s order, etc.). For the court to grant the change in either the amount or the duration, the party petitioning the court must prove a “substantial change in circumstances,” meaning that the change must be significant. An example would be that one spouse was unemployed and in college when alimony was originally ordered, and that same spouse is now earning a significantly higher salary at a stable job. Alimony may also be terminated if the receiving spouse enters into a “supportive relationship,” meaning he or she is cohabiting with someone who is financially assisting him or her, among other factors.
Modification of Child Support
Just like alimony, a child support obligation may also be changed, but it is treated slightly different. Generally, a parent’s child support obligation does not terminate until the child reaches the age of 18, unless the court finds, or the parties agree, that the child is still dependent beyond the age of 18 (i.e., the child suffers from a mental incapacity that began prior to the age of 18, or if the child is between the ages of 18 and 19, is still in high school, and has a reasonable expectation of graduating before the age of 19). Otherwise, the amount may be changed, as long as there has been a “substantial change in circumstances,” and the change is in the best interest of the child. The change must also be “sufficient, material, involuntary, and permanent in nature,” meaning a temporary or small change will not qualify. A parent’s failure to exercise their time-sharing schedule has been found to be a substantial change in circumstances in some cases.
Modification of Time-Sharing Or Parental Responsibility
Parental responsibility is the right of a parent to make important day-to-day decisions that affect the child’s life. Time-sharing/parenting plan refers to the amount of nights each parent spends with the child. Under Florida law, a court may modify parental responsibility or time sharing if there is a substantial and material change in circumstances, and if the change is in the best interest of the child. An example would be if a parent’s decision-making has consistently placed the child’s well-being in danger, or if the court allows a parent to relocate with the child, and the time-sharing schedule must now provide for less overnights with the parent who stays in Florida.
Every day that goes by is another day in which you have to abide by a court order that is no longer fair for you counts, and in some cases, you may be leaving applicable credits on the table. At Strategic Family Attorney, P.A., we will do everything we can under the law to modify your previous court orders so that they fit your current needs. Contact us for a consultation.