Child Support

A DEDICATED CHILD SUPPORT ATTORNEY

In Florida, child support is the legal responsibility of both parents, and children have the right to receive support from both parents. Neither parent can legally waive child support.  Child support actions are most commonly involved in divorces, separations, and paternity cases.  Child support is put into place to cover the cost of the child’s essential needs, while ensuring that both parents take financial responsibility for the child.

ESTABLISHING CHILD SUPPORT

Child support can be a complicated and lengthy process, especially without the help of an attorney that can help explain the child support process, determine a proper course of action, file the necessary paperwork in your case, and represent you in court if needed.

The Florida Child Support Guidelines provide a statutory formula to determine the amount of child support that one parent pays the other parent.  If properly calculated, these guidelines provide a basis for financially covering your child’s needs. A family law attorney can assist you in properly calculating child support.  Ultimately, a family law court determines the amount of child support that is received and paid through a Petition for Support.

Once a Petition for Support is filed, the judge will determine the appropriate amount of child support and will determine how the child support will be paid. Payments of child support are usually made through direct payment, payment through the state of Florida, through an income withholding order, or through garnishment.

  • DIRECT PAYMENT: Where one parent pays the other parent directly without going through the State of Florida to make payments.
  • PAYMENT THROUGH STATE OF FLORIDA: The Florida Department of Revenue’s child support enforcement division is responsible for the acceptance and disbursement of child support payments.
  • INCOME WITHHOLDING ORDER (IWO): Valid court order to withhold income, usually deducted directly from employer, and disbursed through the Florida Department of Revenue’s State Disbursement Unit (SDU).
  • WAGE GARNISHMENT:  Florida court order used to pay unpaid child support obligations from benefits derived from the owing parent (Social Security disability, income, retirement, or veteran benefits).

CHILD SUPPORT CONSIDERATONS

Child support calculations are based on the income of both parents. However, a variety of factors are considered along with the child support guidelines in order to establish the proper child support amount. A court will consider the specific circumstances of each party and usually will not deviate much from the presumed amount produced by the Florida Child Support Guideline formula. The Florida Child Support Guidelines allow a judge to deviate by up to five percent more or five percent less than the presumed amount.  Under the Florida Statutes, to deviate from the guidelines by more than five percent, a judge must provide written findings that outline why the deviation was appropriate and necessary as opposed to the presumed child support amount.

POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT

  • INCOME OF BOTH PARENTS
  • AMOUNT OF OVERNIGHTS WITH CHILD
  • MEDICAL CARE & HEALTH INSURANCE
  • DAYCARE & AFTER-SCHOOL COSTS
  • TAXES
  • DISABILITY & SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
  • UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION
  • SPOUSAL SUPPORT
  • PENSION OR RETIREMENT PAYMENTS
  • ANNUITY PAYMENTS

ENFORCING CHILD SUPPORT

Child support orders issued in the state of Florida are legally enforceable for the purpose of supporting the child.  When parents fail to pay child support orders as required, the Florida Department of Revenue may become involved or the family court may hold the non-paying parent in contempt. The Florida Department of Revenue or family law judge have several methods at their disposal to enforce child support orders.

POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT

  • SUSPENSION OF DRIVER’S LICENSE
  • CONTEMPT OF COURT RESULTING IN INCARCERATION OF DELINQUENT PARENT
  • SUSPENSION OF VARIOUS STATE ISSUED LICENSES
  • WITHOLDING OF FEDERAL INCOME TAX REFUNDS
  • GARNISHMENT OF BANK ACCOUNTS
  • WITHOLDING NOTICES SENT TO EMPLOYERS
  • FILING LEGAL ACTION
  • REPORT DELINQUENCY TO CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES

Unfortunately, some parents try to lower or eliminate child support obligations by quitting their jobs voluntarily. If a court finds that a parent responsible for child support payments chose to quit, a court may still impute income to that parent.  By imputing income, the guidelines instruct the court to handle the unemployed parent as if he or she was earning a full time wage. As a result, unless a modification is warranted for legitimate reasons, that parent is still responsible for the payment of child support.

CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATIONS

Modification of existing child support is often necessary and needed when a change of income occurs. In Florida, major income changes by either parent provide a basis for the modification of an existing child support order. According to the Florida Statutes, before the court may find that the child support guidelines provide the basis for proving a substantial change in circumstances, the difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided under the guidelines shall be at least 15% or fifty dollars, whichever amount is greater.

In Florida, minor income changes are unlikely to be considered substantial enough to warrant a child support modification. However, major changes in income such as a loss of income or in some cases even an increase in income, may qualify as a substantial enough change.

SUBSTANTIAL CHANGES IN CIRCUMTANCES INCLUDE:

  • EMPLOYMENT TERMINATION
  • EMPLOYMENT CHANGE
  • PAY CUT
  • PAY RAISE
  • CHANGE IN PATTERN OF OVERNIGHTS
  • END OF DAYCARE EXPENSES
  • CHILD MEDICAL EXPENSES
  • HEALTH INSURANCE CHANGES
  • END OF ALIMONY
  • CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS FOR OTHER CHILDREN
  • ANOTHER CHILD AGING OUT OF CHILD SUPPORT

Once a substantial change in circumstance occurs, and the basis for the Florida Child Support Guidelines has been met, a Supplemental Petition to Modify Child Support can be filed with the family court to begin the child support modification process.

CHILD SUPPORT ARREARS

Child support arrears (also known as “back child support”) that are currently owed usually cannot be modified even if your current child support modification is successful.  In cases where child support arrears are owed and the child has reached the age of majority, the child support arrearage obligation generally will continue until fully paid.  Unpaid child support arrearages remain the vested right of the child and cannot be reduced or eliminated unless a finding of compelling or extraordinary circumstances has been found. Enforcement of the child support arrears can be sought even after the child has reached the age of majority.

TERMINATION OF CHILD SUPPORT

Current child support orders are required to contain a termination date to end child support thus allowing parents to terminate child support without returning to court.  However, some orders do not contain termination dates. In those cases, a Supplemental Petition to Terminate Child Support needs to be filed to begin the process. Child support may continue even after the child reaches the age of majority in cases where the child has special needs that require long-term care due to physical or mental incapacity. Termination of a current child support obligation does not terminate the obligation to pay an arrearage, delinquency, or costs owed.

Florida Statutes generally provide that child support terminates on the child’s 18th birthday.  However, a Florida family law court can order that child support obligations continue past the age of 18 and up to the child’s date of high school graduation if the child receiving the support is still in high school, is dependent on their parents, and is reasonably expected to graduate prior to their 19th birthday.

LEARN MORE BY WORKING WITH A SKILLED ORLANDO CHILD SUPPORT ATTORNEY

To learn more about your rights related to child support, speak with a skilled child support lawyer at Atherley Law Firm. From our office located in downtown Orlando we serve clients throughout Orange and Osceola counties.  To get started, please call us today at (407) 459-7046, contact us online, or schedule your own consultation.

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