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Can an order for child support from a Florida court be modified?

Florida judges generally devote a substantial amount of energy into devising an order for child support that will serve the child's best interests and be fair to both parents. Sometimes, however, the parents' or the child's circumstances change after an order for child support is entered, and the change in circumstances may motivate one of the parents to seek a modification of the original order.

Divorced parents are often able to negotiate a modification of the support order without seeking the court's intervention. Any such modification must, however, be presented to the court for approval. If the court approves the changes, the new agreement will replace the existing child support order. If the parents cannot agree on a modification, one or both parents must seek relief from the court.

The parent requesting the modification must bring a motion to amend the existing order. Courts are given broad statutory discretion to modify existing orders for support, maintenance or alimony as "equity requires." The court must give "due regard to the changed circumstances or the financial ability of the parties or the child." The court has latitude to consider a variety of factors, such as loss of a job by either parent, unexpected medical expenses, a substantial increase in the income of the either spouse or similar events. In issuing an order to increase child support, the court must make a finding that the payor parent's income is sufficient to comply with the order.

If divorced parents are unable to agree on a modified level of child support, they must necessarily ask the court to resolve the dispute. The involvement of the court almost always requires one or both parents to retain counsel to draft the motion papers and appear at the hearing on the motion.

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