The case of former husband who owed child support who sought to have his monthly obligation reduced by filing a petition for ‘modification of judgment’ brought to the fore several interesting questions of law.
The trial court granted the father’s petition and adjusted his child support obligation based on financial affidavits that the former husband submitted.
On appeal however, the former wife questioned the modification citing the court’s failure to apply the doctrine of ‘unclean hands’ in his case. The doctrine of ‘unclean hands’ is a rule that prevents a plaintiff from obtaining the relief sought if he has committed a wrongdoing.
What Is a Modification of Judgment?
In Florida, a party who is affected by a court order may request for an adjustment or change in its terms to suit their current circumstances through a legal remedy known as ‘modification of judgment’. In family law matters, the most common orders for modification are child support and alimony which depend primarily on one party’s ability to pay.
Duty to Prove Changed Circumstances
Because a court order for support presumes that the obliged party has the ability to pay the amount ordered, any party seeking to change its terms must be able to prove that substantial changes in their circumstances have affected their ability to pay.
In the case mentioned above, the former husband already owed child support of around $11,000 in 2012 when he sought modification of judgment. He was also found in contempt for failing to pay the court-ordered child support.
The appellate court noted that:
- The petition for modification did not allege nor explain his failure to comply with the prior support order
- The former husband submitted financial affidavits showing a monthly surplus in 2012
- It was only in 2013 when his financial affidavit showed a monthly deficit
Court Ruling on Modification
The appellate court reversed the trial court’s approval of the modification petition and ruled that the petition for modification should not be considered when the party in default of a previous court order fails to show his inability to comply with the prior support order.
If the circumstances surrounding your previous child support or alimony court order have significantly changed, reducing your ability to pay, your family law attorney can help you obtain a modification by ensuring that all legal requirements are met and filed in court.
In Florida, the Law Firm for Family Law established by Gary E. Williams has years of experience in managing over 1,800 cases involving family law matters such as modification of judgment. Mr. Williams is a board certified expert in marital and family law in Pinellas County, Florida and a Florida Supreme Court certified family law mediator.
We also handle other family law cases such as divorce, child custody, parenting plans, time sharing, equitable distribution and domestic violence. Call us today at (727) 531-8737 to discuss your situation with one of our attorneys.