The last four weeks, unemployment jobs claims have hit record highs. As of early July, 2020 a total of almost 1.3 million Americans are out of work. Unemployment causes stress over covering necessities like housing, utilities, and food costs. Child support obligations after a layoff or furlough can create additional anxiety. We’ll highlight what both parties can do to help alleviate the burden when unemployment due to COVID changes everything.
Florida Law Concerning Child Support Obligations
When a judge orders a parent to pay maintenance for the upbringing of his/her child(ren), that parent becomes a ‘maintenance debtor’. He/she is legally bound to pay a monthly sum for support to his/her children, who, conversely, have become ‘maintenance creditors’.
In Florida, if a parent violates the court child support order, they can be found in contempt of court, which carries a variety of penalties, including:
- Driver’s license or passport suspension
- Seizure of bank accounts
- Seizure of tax refunds
- Liens on property
- Wage garnishment
- Payment of a fine
- Jail time of up to one year (And you’ll have to continue to pay support during the entire period of imprisonment!)
Things are not always simple; The courts know that nonpayment is not always the result of a deliberate choice. We’ll discuss modifications to a child support payment schedule in greater detail below.
How Do You Modify Your Child Support Payments in Florida?
According to Florida Statute 61.30, the court will determine the net income of each parent to calculate a combined net income. Using this figure in a child support guidelines schedule, the need per child is determined for different levels of combined monthly net income. To set the monthly payment schedule, the court will use a percentage share for each parent based on their respective incomes. Beyond this, child support can also include many other costs such as child care and health insurance for the child.
The court can adjust the amount based on what it calls “deviation factors”, some of which include:
- Extraordinary needs (medical, mental health, educational, etc.) of the child
- If the child makes any independent income
- The age of the child
In the same way that the child’s needs change with age, the parents’ income and expenses may increase or decrease. When a global pandemic causes the obligor to become unemployed overnight, being penalized for nonpayment on top of that would be unnecessarily harsh.
Luckily, Florida Statute 61.13 provides for the possibility of modifying or even suspending the payment of support when there has been a substantial change to the circumstances of the parties. To accomplish this, the parties will need to go back to the court which initially set the maintenance payments and assert the changes which have occurred in his situation. Loss of employment or furlough would certainly render a party unable to pay the maintenance payments. Therefore, this gives cause for the court reconsider the monthly amount.
Getting Help From an Experienced Florida Family Law Attorney
No matter what happens, the best course for an obligor is to be able to demonstrate that they’ve done everything in their power to maintain the ordered support. When your circumstances have changed, it’s time to consult an experienced family law attorney. Whether you are an obligee or an obligor, our team can help navigate the legal proceedings towards modifying family maintenance payments.