Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Child Support

When child support is calculated based on the amount of overnights each parent spends with the child(ren), a change in the overnight schedule may result in modification of the child support payments.  This was examined in the appellate case Knight v. Knight, 208 So.3d 1278 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017) in which the court considered the father's challenge to a modification of his child support obligation, retroactive to the date he stopped exercising his court-ordered equal time-sharing. 

The evidence in the trial court indicated the parties were originally awarded equal time-sharing with their son, and child support was calculated based on this equal time-sharing schedule. The father at some point stopped exercising his equal time-sharing and the mother sought a modification of the child support payments based on this. 

The trial court granted the modification, but in doing so used the "gross-up" method to calculate child support. This method alters the calculation when each parent spends at least 20 percent overnights with their child. Since the father had less than 20 percent overnights, the father argued on appeal that the court should not have used the gross-up method. The father further took issue with the court's decision to retroactively modify his child support obligation to the date he no longer exercised his equal time-sharing. The mother countered with the argument that under the Florida statutes, the court was permitted to deviate from the child support guidelines. 

The appellate court acknowledged that deviation is permitted, but not without written findings of fact justifying a deviation of more than five percent, which was the case here. The trial court provided no written justification for deviating more than five percent from the child support guidelines via the gross-up method. Therefore the court reversed the child support judgment, instructing the trial court to either establish an amount within five percent of the guideline amount or make a finding justifying the deviation beyond five percent. However, the court upheld the court's decision to retroactively modify the amount based on the express authorization to do so found in the Florida Statutes. 

Exercising your court-ordered time-sharing is important not only for the best interest of your children, but also because other parts of your final judgment may rely on the time-sharing schedule. If you are no longer able to meet the obligations set forth in your final judgment, you may need to seek a modification. A consultation with a Miami child support lawyer may help you decide how to proceed.