Times are tough and our unemployment rate is rapidly growing due to COVID-19. What can you do if you are no longer employed or your earnings have significantly decreased but you are obligated to pay support you can no longer afford? Or, what can you do if you no longer have employment income and the alimony and/or child support you are receiving is not enough to cover your expenses?
You can seek a modification of your support obligation. In Florida, there are three keys to successfully modifying your support.
- First, you must file a Supplemental Petition to Modify Support. In Florida, when you ask for a modification of child support and / or alimony, you must prove that after the original order was issued, a substantial material change of circumstances occurred which was not contemplated at the time of the entry of the original order. Without an order modifying the original support order, your financial obligation will continue and you may not unilaterally decrease your payments or you may be held in contempt of court.
- Second, you must gather the documents and information you need to support your claim. In order to succeed in obtaining an increase in support you must show that you have the financial need and the other party has the ability to pay. In Florida, if your petition involves financial issues such as child support or alimony, each party has a right to the production of certain documents during the discovery phase of the case, namely Mandatory Disclosures. Mandatory disclosure requires each party in a dissolution of marriage case to provide the other party with certain financial information and documents. These documents must be served on the other party within 45 days of service of the petition for dissolution of marriage or supplemental petition for modification on the respondent. The mandatory disclosure rule applies to all original and supplemental dissolution of marriage cases. Once you have received the financial documentation you can then support the fact that the other parent or spouse has the ability to pay and you have the financial need.
- Third, consult and hire an attorney. Navigating our legal system is not easy, especially during these COVID-19 times when most courts are conducting virtual hearings via telephone or Zoom®. With legal representation, you will be able to know your rights and whether you are eligible for a modification or not. Furthermore, you will have an advocate in the courtroom that can assertively voice your position in court. Moreover, you legal advocate will be able to gather and interpret the financial documents you need to support your claim. And when the other side is not cooperating with producing the documents, your attorney will know what to file to ensure that you receive the evidence that you need to proceed and prove your claim. So many times I have heard from clients how they wish they would have retained our office from the beginning as it would have saved them a lot of heartache and money in the end.
If you have questions about seeking modifications of support obligations, our team at Robert Sparks Attorneys is available to help. Contact us to request a consultation.