Articles Posted in Modification Of Child Support

Modification of Child Custody and Visitation case was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal in a case captioned Romeo v. Romeo. In this case, the former husband and former wife were divorced in 2007. The Final Judgment dissolving their marriage contained an agreed upon time-sharing schedule for their minor children. The former husband filed a Supplemental Petition for Modification of Time-sharing. After a hearing, the trial court granted the former husband’s request for a modification of the parties’ time-sharing schedule for their minor children. The trial court awarded additional time-sharing to the former husband, and altered the parties’ holiday time-sharing schedule. The lower court also lowered the amount of the Husband’s child support.

In the case captioned Romeo v. Romeo, the Florida Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling. The Appellate Court ruled that in order to award a custody modification, a trial court must find that there has been a material, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances.

In the modification of custody case at bar, the trial court failed to include this finding in its Supplemental Final Judgment. Additionally, the former husband argued that the former wife agreed to a change in the parties’ time-sharing arrangement by allowing the former husband to spend time-sharing with their children on alternate Sundays. The Florida Court of Appeal stated that consent by a parent to permit the other parent to spend extra time-sharing with their children does not create a basis for a modification of time-sharing.

(i) In a modification of child support case, the fact that the former wife’s bills are being paid by her new husband may be considered as part of her gross income in calculating child support. In a recent case captioned Thompson v. Malicki the Florida Court of Appeals had before it a case where the former wife sought to relocate the parties’ children, modify the parties’ custody and visitation schedule with the children, and modify child support. The Former Wife wanted to move the parties’ children from Charlotte County to Palm Beach County, Florida so that she and they could live with her new husband. The lower court denied the relocation but permitted a modification of child support.

The lower court imputed income to the former wife. The Court of Appeal stated that income can be imputed to an unemployed parent when that parent is not physically or mentally incapacitated. When income is imputed, the court is to consider the parents employment potential and the parent’s most probable earning level based on the parent’s recent work history, qualifications, and earnings level in the current job market in the community in which the parent lives. A court may not rely solely on past earnings in making a determination as to the appropriate amount of income to impute.

Additionally, the Court of Appeal also held that in a modification of child support case, where a former spouse’s expenses are being paid by a new spouse, such payments may be considered to be gross income to the recipient spouse. These payments are considered to be income to the extent that they reduce the recipient’s living expenses.

Modification of child support in Florida was recently explained in Arquette v. Rutter.  In Arquette v. Rutter the Florida Court of Appeal stated: “This court recently explained the circumstances, under the UIFSA, in which a Florida court may modify a child support order issued in another state: [A]s is the case here, when not all of the parties reside in Florida, a Florida court may only modify the order under one of the following circumstances: 1. After notice and hearing the tribunal finds that a. the child, individual obligee, and obligor do not reside in the issuing state; b. the petitioner seeks modification and is not a Florida resident; and c. the Florida tribunal has personal jurisdiction over the respondent. 2. The tribunal finds that it has personal jurisdiction over an individual party or the child and that all of the individual parties have filed a consent in the issuing tribunal to the Florida tribunal’s modifying the support order and assuming continuing exclusive jurisdiction over it.

Trissler v. Trissler, 987 So. 2d 209, 211-12 (Fla. 5th DCA 2008) (citing § 88.6111(1), Fla. Stat.). “The FFCCSOA is virtually identical to the UIFSA.” Id. at 210.

Here, neither the parents nor the child live in California. California has, therefore, lost continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under the FFCCSOA.See PuIkkinenv.Pulkkinen, l27 So.3d 738, 743 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013). “[California’s] loss of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, however, does not automatically confer jurisdiction on a Florida court to modify [California’s] child support order.” Id. at 743-44 (citing Bowman v. Bowman, 917 N.Y.S.2d 379 (N.Y. App. Div. 2011)). Father is a resident of Florida and, therefore, may not petition to modify the child support order under section 88.6111.”

Child Support Award Modification – Date on Which the Modification Takes Place in Florida

When the court makes an allocated award for each child, the modification is retroactive to the date the child reaches majority, and pre-dates the filing of the modification petition. “Furthermore, when the issue is arrearages, the obligor is entitled to a retroactive reduction pre-dating a modification petition, consistent with the statutory child support guidelines. See, e.g., State, Dep’t of Revenue ex rel Ortega v. Ortega, 948 So. 2d 855,857 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) (explaining that, in the McClung decision, the court was ‘careful to distinguish those authorities that refused to retroactively modify an unallocated support award from the case then before us involving what we determined to be an allocated award…’). Gilbert v. Cole. 

Failure to exercise time-sharing results in an adjustment of child support. “We previously held that application of section 61.30(11(b) is mandatory. Seiberlich v. Wolf, 859 So. 2d 570, 571 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003). Florida law mandates a reduction in child support whenever the non-custodial parent spends a “substantial amount of time” with the child. § 61.3O(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2006). It seems intuitive that, conversely, the failure to spend time with a child mandates forfeiture of the right to a reduction in child support. The Legislature has specifically provided that a parent’s failure to exercise court-ordered or agreed-upon time-sharing, not caused by the other parent, resulting in the adjustment of child support “shall be deemed a substantial change of circumstances….” § 61.30(11)(c), Fla. Stat. (2001). That modification is “retroactive to the date the noncustodial parent first failed to regularly exercise court-ordered or agreed visitation. Id.” Buhler v. Buhler

Trial Court has jurisdiction over a petition for modification during the pendency of an appeal. “Both the Third and Fourth Districts have held that the trial court has jurisdiction over a petition for prospective downward modification of alimony and/or child support even while the appeal of an initial award of alimony and child support is pending because “‘[t]he granting of modification relief prospectively would have no effect on the order being appealed.’” Atlas v. Atlas, 708 So. 2d 296, 298 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998) (quoting Merian v. Merhige, 690 So. 2d 678, 681 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997) ) (emphasis added).” Cooper v. Cooper