Options for parents seeking a child support modification

When parents divorce, child support payments help the custodial parent manage a child's everyday expenses, as well as costs related to education, childcare and medical expenses. Failure to pay child support in accordance with an order may result in garnishment of one's wages, withholding of tax refunds, suspension of one's driver's license, impact on occupational licenses and in some cases jail time.

It is important for Florida residents to understand that child support payments are statutory, and Florida courts use a child support formula and guidelines to determine the amount owed. Occasionally, a substantial change in circumstances such as a layoff, reduced work hours, or disability may impact a parent's ability to make timely payments. Some non-custodial parents may panic and not know what to do. However, there are options for parents to adjust their child support payments.

For instance, depending on the level of existing communication and civility between the parents, the non-custodial parent may be able to directly approach the custodial parent to discuss the change in income and impact on child support payments. But, in some cases, particularly those involving domestic abuse or a restraining order, direct contact with the other party may not be in the best interest of parent or child and may even be prohibited by law.

Another option is for the non-custodial parent to file for a change of the child support payment amount. In this case, parents can either represent themselves or find a family law attorney to help. The burden of proof for a change in support payment amount is high and pay stubs, tax records and vocational evaluations may be required.

Finally, because going to court may be time-consuming and costly, parties have the option to use a family law mediator to resolve their child support issues. A legal professional can help parents dealing with child support issues to better understand their rights and options moving forward.

Source: Huffington Post, "Which Would You Choose -- Mediation or Litigation - When Seeking Child Support Modification?," Diane Danois, July 30, 2013

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