Requesting an Increase in Child Support Payments
Child support is an obligation of every parent. When the parents are unmarried, separated or divorced, then the parent who has the smallest percentage of parenting time or the one with whom the children do not primarily reside, will generally have to make child support payments to the other parent.
These payments contribute to the child’s well-being by helping with medical care, educational expenses, recreational and other activities for the child’s benefit. At some point during the divorce proceedings, or when the parents separate or paternity is established, the court will set the amount of child support.
However, as often happens, life circumstances change that can affect the amount of child support that the paying parent is obligated to make. The parents can mutually agree on the amount to be paid, which may be less than the guidelines, but not significantly since the court will review the agreement and will not approve it if it decides it is not in the best interests of the child.
Verbal agreements regarding child support modifications are not recommended since relationships with the ex-spouse or partner or even with the child that were once amicable may deteriorate. Further, the court will typically not accept or enforce any agreement other than the original order.
Without a written agreement, the recipient parent must be prepared to demonstrate material, substantial and unforeseen circumstances that are involuntary and explain this in the Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child Support that must be filed in order to obtain an increase in support.
Factors Increasing Child Support
Examples of changes that can lead to an increase in child support include situations where the recipient parent:
- loses employment
- a change in the guideline child support amount is at least 15% or $50, whichever is greater
- becomes disabled
- the child’s health insurance premiums significantly increase
- daycare expense increases
- other activities become more expensive
- there is a change in the overnight pattern of the child or percentage of parenting time
- a previous order for spousal maintenance terminates
- cost of living increase
The change must not only be substantial but must also be permanent in nature. However, there are situations where a temporary modification may be requested and granted for emergency medical expenses or for a temporary medical or financial situation.
How is Child Support Determined?
The net monthly income of both parties is a major determining factor in child support. In situations where a parent is considered voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, then the Florida courts will impute income to that parent and come up with an amount. Absent a finding of a physical or mental impairment or some other circumstance beyond the control of that parent, the court will look to that parent’s potential or probable income.
The parents’ potential incomes are determined by an examination of the parents’ previous employment history, qualifications and prevailing earnings level in the community. If such information is lacking or not available, the court can impute the earnings by setting the amount that is equivalent to the median income of full-time workers derived from data in the US Bureau of the Census.
Otherwise, a working parent’s net income is derived after subtracting certain expenses:
- federal, state and local income taxes
- federal insurance contributions or self-employment tax
- mandatory union dues
- mandatory retirement payments
- spousal maintenance to a former spouse or to the current ex-spouse
- health insurance other than for the minor child who is the subject of the present relationship before the court
Other factors in calculating child support are:
- number of children
- monthly cost of daycare if paid by the non-custodial parent and by the parent with primary parenting responsibility
- monthly cost of medical, dental, vision insurance paid by non-custodial parent and by the parent with primary parenting responsibility
- percentage of time-sharing (only overnights are considered)
Time-sharing, as Florida statutes now refer to as visitation or any time a parent spends with the child, is separate from child support except as a factor in calculating support payments, in that time-sharing or support cannot be withheld if the other parent is uncooperative.
Retain a Florida Divorce Lawyer
Child support, other than time sharing arrangements, is one of the more contentious issues in a divorce or parental relationship. If you need to increase the amount of child support being paid to you and the other parent is disputing the increase or the amount, contact an experienced Florida divorce lawyer who can explain what you need to demonstrate to the court to support your request.