When Does a Florida Court Need to Account for a Parent’s New Job in Modifying a Child Support Agreement?
Child support is supposed to take into account each parent’s respective financial situation. Obviously, as a parent’s fortunes change over time, so too may the precise amount of child support required. And while a parent cannot avoid child support by, say, voluntarily quitting their job in order to reduce their income, a judge may consider a parent obtaining a new job as a change in circumstances justifying reconsideration of a prior order.
Trial Court Improperly Ignored Florida Supreme Court’s Ruling on Child Support
A recent decision by the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal, Paulette v. Rosella, illustrates how this works in practice. In this case, a father and mother entered a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) regarding custody and support obligations for their children. The MSA gave the father primary custody while declaring the mother was not required to pay any child support “at this time” because she was presently unemployed. However, the mother was required to notify the father if she later obtained a full-time job.
When the mother did find work, the father asked a judge to modify the MSA to require the mother to start paying child support. The judge rejected the father’s petition, stating that the mother’s “change in circumstances” had been “contemplated by the MSA” and therefore did not justify a modification. The father appealed this ruling.
The Fifth District agreed with the father that the trial judge’s decision made no sense. As the Florida Supreme Court itself has said, a parent’s “increase in ability to pay is itself sufficient to warrant an increase in child support.” And contrary to the lower court’s ruling, the MSA itself “obviously contemplated that upon becoming employed Mother would notify Father of that fact so her child support obligation could be established.” Indeed, there would be no reason for the mother to give such notice except in the child-support context. And in fact, the mother herself conceded before the trial court she was “obligated” to pay child support now that she had a job–she only questioned the amount requested by the father.
The Fifth District therefore returned the father’s child support petition to the trial court with instructions to determine the extent of the mother’s obligations going forward. The trial court must also make any final award “retroactive to the date” of the father’s original petition for modification. This reflects the fact that the change in conditions justifying child support existed when the father first filed the petition.
Speak with a Boca Raton Child Support & Family Law Attorney Today
Dealing with child support is often not a one-time affair. As both parents employment and income change throughout the years, it may be necessary to periodically revisit and modify a support order. An experienced Boca Raton child support lawyer can assist you through this process. Call WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-488-7788 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our family law team.