Modifications and Enforcement of Judgments and Orders
Final Judgments of Dissolution of Marriage and Final Judgments of Paternity are subject to modification (change) only upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances since the final judgment was entered. Only issues regarding children, child support and alimony may be modified. The division of assets and liabilities in a final judgment of dissolution of marriage cannot modified at a later time regardless of the changed circumstances.
Florida Statute 61.14 governs modifications of child support and alimony. These law recognizes that needs and circumstances change over time and allows for modifications of child support and alimony in certain cases. Typically, these modifications are sought when one of the parties experiences a significant increase or decrease in income. In child support cases, the court can also modify which parent is to pay for health insurance and day care, and it can re-allocate the child dependency exemptions. Alimony is usually subject to modification if the receiving spouse’s income or financial needs change significantly. Also, alimony may be modified or terminated if the receiving spouse engages in a support relationship whereby financial support is given to or received from a live-in companion.
Parenting plans and timesharing schedules may need to be modified due to changes in one of parent’s residence location or employment. These modifications are governed by Florida Statute 61.13. Absent an agreement between the parents, a parent must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that the proposed modification is in the best interest of the child. The burden of proving a substantial change of circumstances is fairly difficult as the courts generally discourage litigants from coming back to court simply to renegotiate their previous deal. A final judgment, in other words, is supposed to be final.
If child support or alimony obligations are not paid, Florida law provides several methods for enforcement. If a party is found to have the ability to pay his or her alimony or child support but has wilfully failed to do so, then the court may adjudicate the wrongful party to be in contempt of court. A party found in contempt can face sanctions up to and including incarceration (jail.) Other sanctions include suspension of driver and professional licenses and an award of attorneys fees. If, on the other hand, a party fails to pay support because of a lost job or serious illness, this typically won’t constitute contempt.
A party may motion the court to enforce a final judgment of divorce or paternity if there are violations of a parenting plan or timesharing schedule or any other aspect of a court order. Sanctions may also be entered in these situations if the conduct was wilful. Sanctions can include make-up timesharing, parenting classes, community service and attorney’s fees.
The family law attorneys the Rice Law Firm can assist you with modifications or enforcement after your divorce or paternity case is final. If you think there’s been a substantial change of circumstances, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can evaluate your case to determine whether your eligible for a modification and advise you of the proper steps to take.