At Draper Law Offices, we get a lot of frequently asked questions when it comes to child support in Florida. In this article, we will address some of these. If you have further questions, feel free to call for a free consultation at 866.767.4711.
Child Support FAQ
Which parent pays child support?
Under Florida law, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their minor children. The statute uses a formula to determine each parent's share of the child's expenses based on a number of factors. Typically, one parent's share will end up being more than the other's and at that point, the parent who owes more will likely have to submit payments to the other parent. Typically, the parent who spends the most time with the children will receive payments from the other; however, there are multiple other factors to consider, such as income.
If we equally share time or agree not to seek child support, will someone still have to pay?
It’s possible; however, unless you both have the same amount of time (overnights) with the child, similar incomes, cost of insurance, etc., payment for support may be due even though it is a small amount. Child support is not optional and it belongs, and is owed to, the child; therefore, it cannot be waived by the parents. The parents are managers of the funds for the benefit of the minor child.
Not really. It can be used for anything that benefits the child and there's no requirement that it be spent directly on the child. It can be spent for things like housing and other expenses which ensure the child's needs are met.
That said, if the money is being misused and the needs of the child aren't being met, the court may ask for an accounting of how the money is being spent. If you're the parent who owes child support, you must keep paying even if you suspect misuse. Your remedy is to bring the matter before the court. If you're the parent receiving child support, you should know that while you typically aren't required to show proof of how you spend the money, the court is allowed to ask that you do just that if misuse of the funds is suspected, which is a first-degree misdemeanor (subsequent violations become a third-degree felony).
How is the amount of the support determined?
There are a number of factors under Florida law affecting the amount of child support for which each parent is responsible. The law includes a formula used by the court to determine the amount each parent owes, based upon the number of overnights each has with the child, their individual incomes (including all sources of income), the needs of the child (including children with special needs), the amount a parent may pay for the child’s health and dental insurance and more. The purpose of the support is not simply to ensure the child's basic needs are met, but to ensure they enjoy the same standard of living as prior to divorce or separation.
What happens if a parent defaults on his or her payments?
If a parent defaults on child support, a number of options are available to you and the state to enforce payment: they include wage garnishment; property liens; negative credit bureau reports (which affect your credit score); freezing bank accounts; suspension of professional and driver's licenses; suspension of passport privileges, contempt orders and even jail time. Note, however, that incarceration is an option only after a parent is found in contempt. If the parent truly has no ability to pay the court ordered support, he or she will not be jailed.
Some counties may also publish the information (often including a picture) online, including the amount owed, on publicly available websites (Suwannee County, Florida is one such county).
Child support is a serious obligation and payment for past due child support (arrears) may be ordered long after a child is no longer eligible to receive child support.
What if something changes? Can I get more child support? Pay less?
Child support modifications are possible if one or both parents have a substantial, material change in circumstances since the entry of the last Order of support, such as income or a significant change in the needs of the child (e.g., diagnosis of a serious medical condition).
These modifications not only require proof of a substantial change since the Court’s last Order, but also a showing that the change was not foreseeable. While relief through modification is available, the proper evidence must be presented.
When will child support end?
Generally, support ends when the child turns18 or, if the child is still in high school at age 18 and is expected to graduate before turning 19, support will end upon graduation from high school. Child support may end prior to age 18 if, for example, a child marries, goes into the military or otherwise becomes “emancipated” (parents are no longer responsible for the child and the child is free from parental control).
If a child has special needs which will prevent them from becoming a self-supporting adult, the child support order, or a later modification, may require that child support continue indefinitely, for the life of the child. It is imperative that an Order of this type be entered before the child's 18th birthday or it cannot be added at a later date.
Do I need a family law attorney?
You do not have to have a lawyer to get child support for your minor child; however, it is strongly recommended. Even if you and the other parent are on great terms and agree on everything, it's important to realize that when it comes to child support, as well as all issues involving cases with minor children, the best interests of the children are paramount. The court will order the proper amount of child support. A lawyer can help ensure that you don't pay more than your fair share or that you receive all which your child is due, matters affecting your child’s life for years to come.
If you're involved in a divorce or paternity case in which child support will be a factor, call the Kissimmee, Florida family law attorneys at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.