You May Need to Have “Clean Hands” Before Reducing Your Child Support in Sarasota, FL
Do you owe back child support in your Sarasota divorce or paternity case? If so, you may need to solve that problem before you ask the court to modify your child support award.
In a recent case from Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals, a father requested a decrease in his child support. Unfortunately for the father, he owed a substantial amount of back child support at the time he filed his petition. The trial court allowed for the reduction in father’s support, but the Second District Court of Appeals reversed. (The Second District Court of Appeals, is the appellate district that your Sarasota divorce or paternity case falls under).
Why? The Court of Appeals found that Father had “unclean hands,” because he owed a substantial amount of back child support at the time he filed his petition to reduce his child support. As a result, “equity” prevented a reduction in his child support. To quote the “old school” language cited by the Court, ” the doors of chancery are closed to him so long as he is in wilful default.”
Key Points About “Clean Hands”
The key points that I take from the Court’s decision are as follows:
- Be proactive. The “ostrich with its head in the sand” strategy is not going to work. Do not wait to reduce your child support if you are unable to pay. Building up child support arrears may later prevent you from requesting a reduction in your child support.
- Watch out for the technical legal issues. Be very careful how you “plead” and argue your modification case. The Court in this case noted in negative terms that the father “did not allege in his petition for modification that he was unable to comply with the prior support order. ” The Court also indicated that father did not “establish his inability to comply with the prior support order” at the hearing.
Links to the Case and Florida’s Child Support Modification Statute
I have provided a link to the case that generated the idea for this post. Keep in mind that the case was just recently posted on the Court’s website, and is still subject to updating and changes as of the time of this post. (Do not cite the case until it is officially published). I have also linked to Florida’s child support modification statute.