It is always best to approach the former spouse or the other parent and give them an opportunity to work with you on changes to the prior agreement or final judgment. Sometimes the parties can agree and no lawyers or courts need to become involved.
If negotiating does not work, determine whether you qualify for a modification.
In the State of Florida a child support modification requires the following:
A FL court order for child support may be modified if it has been at least 3 years since the existing support amount was ordered or since the case was last reviewed for a modification. This requires the difference between the current support amount and the proposed amount, using current information and statutory guidelines, to be at least 10% or $25 per month (whichever amount is greater). If it has been less than 3 years since the last review, a FL support order may still be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances. To petition the court for modification when the previous order was entered less than three years ago, the difference between the current support amount and the proposed amount, using current information and statutory guidelines, must be at least 15% or $50 per month (whichever amount is greater). Alimony awards can be modified but are subject to the agreement or order.
If you qualify, file a Petition for Modification right away.
The clock does not start ticking on any requests for modification until a petition is actually filed and the case is re-opened. This means that if you lose your job in January, but don't file your petition until June, you will still owe the original amount of alimony or child support for the months of January-June regardless of your modification being approved.
Present your case to a judge or magistrate.
You have the burden to demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances, but when you re-open the case for a modification, you are entitled to discovery from the other party. Make sure that you obtain all financial documents that you are entitled to and present your case to the judge or magistrate.
If the magistrate finds against you, appeal to the trial judge.
If your case is assigned to a magistrate and you disagree with their findings know that magistrates are not the last word in a case in family court. If you disagree with the magistrate's finding you can request the judge on the case hear the petition.
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