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I Got Hurt in a Car Accident and Can’t Pay Child Support – What Should I Do?
A car accident can cause debilitating injuries that significantly impact your life. You may have to receive ongoing medical treatment, causing you to miss work and lose income. And unfortunately, the bills will keep piling up, which could create financial struggles.
One obligation that may be affected is your court-ordered child support payments. If your financial situation has substantially changed and you’re unable to pay child support, you can request a modification.
How To Modify a Child Support Order in Florida
A child support order is legally enforceable until it is modified, vacated, or terminated. You should not stop paying or reduce your monthly payment until you receive a formal modified order.
The parent seeking to modify a support order has the burden of proving a substantial and involuntary change in circumstances.
You will need to provide financial disclosures and other documentation proving the change in circumstances. Depending on the county, you may also need to go to mediation before a judge or hearing officer listens to your case.
The exact procedures depend on your jurisdiction and whether a Florida circuit court, the Child Support Program, or a different state ordered your obligation.
What Is a Substantial Change in Circumstances in Florida?
Florida’s child support guidelines are used to determine a parent’s financial obligation to support their child. They also provide information regarding how to prove a substantial change in circumstances.
Some reasons a child support order may need to be modified include:
A change in a parent’s income (whether they’re earning more or less)
A parent’s failure to see their child pursuant to a time-sharing arrangement or parenting plan (or a change in parenting time)
A change in child-related expenses, such as daycare and healthcare costs
A parent sustained a life-changing injury or illness
A change in the child’s needs
If you were hurt in a car accident, you might have a substantial change in income and a life-changing injury. If you’re seeking a modification based on a change in income, you must meet the “substantial change” threshold.
Pursuant to the child support guidelines, if the order has been in effect for less than three years (or hasn’t been reviewed or modified in the last three years), the change in support must be at least 15% or $50 – whichever is greater – to qualify as a substantial change.
In other words, your car accident injury (and resultant lost income) must decrease your child support payment by at least 15% or $50. You can test whether you meet this threshold by using a child support calculator and comparing your result with your current support obligation.
For example, if you currently pay $1,000 per month in child support, the new calculated child support payment (based on your change in circumstances) must be lower than $850 per month.
If it has been over three years since the order was issued, reviewed, or modified, you can seek a modification if the change in payments would be at least 10% but not less than $25. For example, if you currently pay $1,000 per month, the new calculated support must be lower than $900.
Other Factors That Could Affect Your Child Support Modification
Keep in mind that if you’re dealing with debilitating injuries after a car accident, the court or reviewing agency will also look at whether your parenting time has decreased. If you’re not spending as much time with your child while recovering, it can affect your child support obligation.
Also, with help from a car accident attorney in Florida, you might receive a personal injury settlement or verdict after a car accident. The portion of your awarded compensation representing lost wages may be included in your child support calculation. However, whether it affects your modification request will depend on the amount you receive and whether it will permanently affect your obligation.
Talk To a Family Law Attorney for Help Modifying a Child Support Order After a Car Accident in Florida
Modifying a child support order can be a complicated process. Don’t wait until you cannot afford your monthly child support payments, or you could face penalties and sanctions.
Seek legal advice as soon as possible after a car accident so that you can determine your options and start the process of modifying your current child support obligation.