Modern families are complex. People have children in and out of marriage;
and, even in marriages, couples that have children often divorce, remarry,
and form new families. According to a 2011
Center report, 42 percent of all U.S. adults have some "step relationship"—almost
100 million American adults have a step-father or step-mother, a step-sibling,
or step-children. Indeed, today, approximately 35 million Americans are
in non-first marriages.
States' laws, including those of Florida, guide families navigating
complex interpersonal situations. And one of these complexities is the
question of whether and how subsequent children should affect child support payments.
Florida's Subsequent Children Statute: Upward Modifications Only
law, a court may consider subsequent children when deciding on modification
of a child support award. In these situations, an award has already been
granted, the non-custodial parent is paying, and at some point, that parent
has an additional child with a new partner.
The law allows the parent of the subsequent child to raise the existence
of the new child in court—but generally
only in the context of a request by the payee spouse to
upwardly modify the award.
In these scenarios, the custodial parent of the children for whom child
support is being paid might request that the payments increase. These
requests are common where the paying spouse's income has increased.
The paying spouse, then, may raise the issue of his or her new children—and
the court "may disregard the income from secondary employment obtained
in addition to the parent's primary employment if the court determines
that the employment was obtained primarily to support the subsequent children."
Meaning, for example, if a father took a second job to help support his
new children, that extra income will not be added to the computations surrounding
whether an upward increase in child support to the children of the former
relationship is appropriate.
Exceptions for Special Circumstances
As mentioned, the existence of a new child is usually irrelevant to a request for a
downward modification of child support (i.e., where the paying parent asks to pay
less due to the expenses of his or her new child). But Florida courts
do appear to allow for exceptions in special circumstances.
In the case
Hurlburt, a Florida appeals court was faced with a child support-paying parent
whose payments were premised on an income of $23,000 per year. The obligation,
however, became nearly impossible after a subsequently born daughter was
diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis so serious that steroids and chemotherapy
The daughter's condition deteriorated to the point where she could
no longer attend school and required attention from her mother—the
non-custodial parent of the former child for whom she paid support—that
prevented the mother from working.
The trial court cited Florida law for the proposition that downward modifications
of child support could not be granted due to the financial strains of
a subsequent child. The appeals court, however, reversed, noting that
the statute states that considerations of subsequent children in cases
of downward modifications are only prohibited "as a general rule."
Exceptional circumstances could place a family outside the general rule,
which was what the appeals court decided in
Contact a South Florida Child Support Attorney to Help with Modification
If you need help with a modification or child support or have any other
family law-related inquiries, please contact the Miami family law attorneys from