After a judge finalizes a divorce and issues court orders, the family’s lives continue to evolve, and circumstances may change. With that in mind, Florida law allows for modifications to alimony, child support and timesharing plans.
At the same time, the law does not make the process so simple that a divorced pair can frivolously alter arrangements. Thus, parties must prove a “substantial change in circumstances” when seeking post-judgment modifications.
The meaning of substantial change
Anyone requesting a modification must provide strong evidence of a substantial change that requires modifications. In the case of divorce, a substantial change generally refers to a significant shift in circumstances that is involuntary, material and nearly permanent.
In most cases, the parties should not have expected the change when the court issued the original order. Divorced individuals should also note that a court will not alter all aspects of a divorce decree. The division of assets, for example, is usually permanent unless evidence comes to light about hidden assets.
When dealing with alimony, a substantial change could be a considerable decrease or increase in income, worsening health, retirement, job loss, promotion or even the cohabitation of an alimony-receiving spouse.
The court examines the situation and verifies that the change is not with the sole intent of reducing one’s obligation to render support. For instance, for those paying alimony who lose their employment, they must prove they did not plan the job loss and demonstrate that they have tried hard to find a new job.
Child support and timesharing modifications
Child support modifications follow a similar path. Changes in income, a child’s disability or illness or even a new baby in the picture can be grounds for modification.
Modifying a timesharing plan also involves demonstrating a substantial and material change. Factors such as a parent’s mental health diagnosis, substance abuse issues or evidence of child abuse or neglect could provide reason for a modification.
However, the state senate recently passed bill HB 1301, which revised the modification standard from July 1, 2023, onward. The modification standard has eased and removed the need to prove that the parent did not anticipate the change.
Also, if parents live more than 50 miles apart, the law considers a move within this range a substantial change. However, a modification requires proof that it is in the child’s best interest.
Life does not stop after a divorce decree, and sometimes the terms need adjustments. Whether dealing with alimony, child support or timesharing, demonstrating significant life changes is key to navigating post-judgment modifications successfully.