COVID-19 and Child Support Modifications
Parents who share custody of their children in the Orlando area have many concerns about how the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 might impact their time-sharing schedules and other matters pertaining to childcare. For many parents, the pandemic has also resulted in significant job loss, and concerns about making child support payments. As you likely know if you pay child support in Florida, the state follows an “income shares” model for child support. What this means is that the court looks at both parents’ incomes in determining a total child support obligation, and then it determines what percentage of that total obligation each parent will pay. Many different kinds of scenarios can arise in which a parent will need to request that the court modify the existing child support order. For parents across Central Florida, the coronavirus pandemic is one of those situations.
To be clear, many parents are being laid off or furloughed as non-essential businesses close, which means that those parents are unlikely to be able to make their monthly child support payments. Given that courts across the state are closed for all but “essential” business, modifying a child support order at this point may be difficult. The following is some information concerning child support modifications and COVID-19 in Florida.
Modifying Child Support in Florida
Under Florida law, when a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, a court can modify an existing child support order. Typically, one of the parents will request that the court review the child support order based on the substantial change in circumstances. Often, when a parent loses his or her job or must take a significant pay cut, that parent will ask the court to modify the existing child support order. For the court to grant a modification, the “difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines shall be at least 15 percent or $50, whichever amount is greater, before the court may find that the guidelines provide a substantial change in circumstances.” In other words, the amount of change in a parent’s income must be so significant that the child support obligation would change by at least 15 percent or $50, whichever is greater.
Under normal circumstances, a parent requesting a modification would petition the court to review the child support obligation. However, taking a modification issue to court at this point in time is not so easy.
Modifications Due to COVID-19 May Be Difficult At This Time
Many courts in Florida have closed to non-essential legal matters, as we mentioned. While many legal issues affecting the family are considered to be essential, and certainly matters pertaining to a child’s safety or well-being would necessitate a court hearing (even if it is virtual), child support difficulties are not likely to be given the same level of heightened importance. To be clear, child support is essential for children, but a parent’s inability to continue meeting his or her child support obligation due to COVID-19 job loss—when so many parents are now in this situation—likely will not rise to the same level of “essential” status as other family law matters.
Parents should do their best to meet the child support obligation, and they should at least pay something. If you have a working relationship with the child’s other parent, you should explain the situation.
Seek Advice from a Florida Child Support Attorney
Most importantly, if you are in this situation, you should seek assistance from an Orlando child support lawyer. These are difficult times, but one of our family lawyers can help. Contact Anderson & Ferrin for more information.