Once a court issues a child support order, can the amount of support that is paid be changed?

The amount of child support is modifiable under certain circumstances and through a variety of methods. The simplest method is for the parents to agree to a change, but the court must approve even an agreed-upon change in order fro the change to be enforceable.

Example: If the payer parent loses his job and asks the custodial parent if he can go a few months without paying support until he has a new job, the custodial parent may voluntarily agree to this modification. If, however, she later decides that she wants to collect the amount of support that went unpaid during that temporary period, the court might support her if it never formally approved the change.

When there is no voluntary agreement, the party seeking the change must file a petition to Modify Support and have a court hearing at which each side will present, usually through counsel, the reasons supporting and opposing the modification. The court usually will not grant the request unless there has been some fairly significant change in circumstances that justifies the change, such as a significant increase or decrease in either parent's income through job change or a substantial change in the needs of the child. Changes in the child support laws, too, may justify a change in previously issued orders. In Florida, the Child Support Guidelines themselves may form a basis for a change in child support. Thus, if the parents had originally agreed to an amount that was more or less that what the guidelines would allow, the guidelines themselves can form the basis for a change in child support irregardless of a change in financial circumstances. Also, an increase in the cost of living can warrant an upward modification of child support, but generally these periodic increases are provided for in the original order so that the parties do not need to make repeated court appearances each time there is a significant change in the cost of living.

Other anticipated changes that can be provided for in the original child support order include a reduction upon the emancipation of each child, an increase when a child enters college, or any other change based on an event that the parties anticipate and that will have an impact on need or ability to pay