You Can Request Modification of Child Support and Alimony Due to a Disability

May 16th 2019 at 7:15 AM

Disabilities (whether caused by injury or illness) can be emotionally, socially, personally, and financially life-changing for the sufferer. In many circumstances, the disabled individual is left with no means by which to support themselves, and may become mostly reliant on their social security benefits to cover their expenses. As such, protecting those benefits and minimizing prior expenses is key to ensuring a sustainable lifestyle in the long-term — one where the disabled individual can achieve a brighter, more fulfilling future.

Child support and alimony payments can put excessive pressure on a disabled individual, as they may no longer have the resources to make such payments. There is a path to a more reasonable solution, however — courts (in Florida and elsewhere) do provide disabled individuals, among others, the opportunity to modify child support and alimony payments that are now disproportionate given the circumstances.

Material Change in Circumstances

Generally speaking, courts will consider the modification of a previously-established scheme for child support payments (as well as alimony payments) if an individual can demonstrate that there has been a material change in their circumstances — specifically, their financial circumstances — sufficient to justify the modification. You will have to show that you cannot pay the original obligation and cover other reasonably necessary expenses.

Certainly, most courts would consider a serious disability to be a material change in circumstances, assuming that the disability is severe and has negatively impacted the sufferer’s ability to earn an income. In determining whether to grant the modification request (and in determining how much to depart from the original payment amount), the court will consider a variety of factors, including the incomes of both parents/former-spouses.

SSI and SSDI Benefits are Treated Differently

It’s worth noting that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is treated differently by courts in the context of child support payments and alimony payments. Specifically, SSI payments cannot be garnished by the court. SSDI payments, on the other hand, can be garnished, so SSDI claimants may find it more of a “pressing” issue to request a modification of their child support or alimony payments in light of the fact that the court will actively step in to secure such payments.

Out-of-Court Modification May Be Possible

Oftentimes, particularly in the wake of a serious disability, the other parent may be willing to negotiate in an informal manner out-of-court. Given the obvious lifestyle and financial limitations caused by disability, it’s possible that a collaborative approach to modifying the child support and alimony payments will bear fruit. Skilled attorneys are capable of working with two non-adversarial parties and negotiating a suitable resolution without resorting to an extensive courtroom process.

If you become disabled, then you may be entitled to request a downward modification of your child support and alimony payments. This ensures that you have sufficient funds to cover your own expenses, given the disability at-issue. Working with a qualified attorney is critical to navigating this process in a way that effectively advances your interests.

Curious about your options? Get in touch with a qualified social security disability lawyer for comprehensive guidance.

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