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What is a Substantial Change in Circumstances in Florida Court Order Modifications?


While Florida law allows parties to modify child support, alimony, and even timesharing plans, the party requesting a modification must prove a “substantial change in circumstances.”

However, many Floridians do not know what qualifies as a substantial change in circumstances to modify a court order in Florida. If you are considering modifying a court order in Florida, schedule a consultation with our Orlando family law attorney to determine if your situation counts as a substantial change in circumstances.

What Qualifies as a Substantial Change in Florida Modification Cases?

In most cases, what qualifies as a substantial change in circumstances depends on the circumstances of each specific case. However, Florida courts have ruled that a change in circumstances is considered “substantial” when it is:

  • Involuntary
  • Unplanned
  • Material
  • Significant
  • Permanent (or nearly permanent)

In addition, the party seeking a modification must prove that the change in circumstances could not have been anticipated when the original court order was issued.

It is vital to present convincing evidence to prove that the situation qualifies as a substantial change in circumstances because Florida courts do not grant a request for modification if the change is not “substantial” in nature.

The “substantial change in circumstances” standard applies to child support, timesharing, and alimony (spousal support) orders in Florida.

Note: Equitable distribution of marital assets is not modifiable in Florida, even if a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the final decree was issued.

What is a Substantial Change in Alimony Modifications?

Either spouse can petition the court to modify an alimony order when there has been a substantial change in circumstances that caused a material difference in either spouse’s financial situation. Some examples that may qualify for a modification include:

  1. Substantial decrease or increase in income and/or cost of living
  2. Significant changes in health
  3. Disability, serious bodily injury, or illness
  4. Retirement
  5. Involuntary loss of a job
  6. Promotion
  7. Cohabitation of the spouse receiving alimony
  8. Death of either party

For example, if the payor spouse loses their job, they must prove that the loss of employment was involuntary and that reasonable attempts have been made to find a new job.

What is a Substantial Change in Child Support Modifications?

Typically, many of the same situations that qualify as a substantial change in circumstances in alimony modifications also apply to child support orders. In addition to the above-mentioned examples, you may request a modification of child support if the child has been disabled or diagnosed with a serious illness or the obligor parent has had a new baby with his/her new partner or spouse.

What is a Substantial Change in Timesharing Modifications?

In order to modify a timesharing plan in Florida, the petitioner must demonstrate evidence that the change is substantial, material, and unanticipated (Fla. Stat. § 61.13).

Florida courts require the petitioner to prove that:

  • The substantial change is permanent or nearly permanent; and
  • The parties could not have reasonably anticipated the change when the original timesharing plan was agreed upon or ordered.

Some of the examples of a substantial change in circumstances in timesharing modifications may include:

  1. A parent has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness;
  2. A parent is suffering from substance abuse;
  3. There is sufficient evidence to prove that a parent has abused or neglected a child; or
  4. A custodial parent relocates to a new city or state (as long as the relocation is more than 50 miles away from the child’s current home).

Call an Orlando Family Law Attorney Today

If you are considering requesting a modification but are not sure that your case qualifies as a substantial change in circumstances, do not hesitate to consult with a skilled family law attorney to discuss your situation. Contact the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A., for a case evaluation. Call 407-521-7171 today.

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