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Understanding Child Support in Florida

Posted by LEISA WINTZ | May 02, 2023 | 0 Comments

Father and young daughter holding hands

Navigating the complexities of child support can be overwhelming for parents facing the challenges of separation or divorce. The financial responsibility of supporting your children is not only a legal obligation but also a vital aspect of ensuring their well-being and providing for their needs. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of child support in Florida, shedding light on its significance, calculation methods, legal considerations, and the overall impact it has on the lives of children and parents.

Who is primarily responsible to pay child support?

Under Florida law, child support for minor children is required of both parents and cannot be waived in a family law legal case. The State of Florida encourages equal rights and responsibilities for children.

Child support is a legal duty required of both parties. The way that child support is calculated is through a formula called the gross-up method. This formula takes into account the following variables:

  • incomes of both parents,
  • the number of children involved
  • certain expenses, such as health insurance and after-school care
  • the number of overnight visits that each parent has with the child

The court typically orders support to be paid until the child reaches the age of majority (18), or until the child graduates from high school; but, in some cases, it may be extended beyond that timeframe if there are special circumstances that require support beyond that time such as a disability of some type.  The purpose of child support is to ensure that the child's basic needs are met and that the child can enjoy a standard of living similar to what it would have been had both parents stayed together.

In Florida, up to 50 percent of a person's disposable income can be garnished to cover child support. That percentage can go even higher under certain criteria.

You might ask how child support can be calculated if one of the parents doesn't work?

Primarily, minimum wage income could be imputed to that non-working parent.  Or, if the non-working parent is willingly unemployed, yet qualified to work and earn a certain amount of income based upon his or her education and/or experience, that potential income could be imputed to them.

When filing for child support, the rule of thumb is that you can ask for retroactive child support for the last 24 month or from when the parents last lived together – whichever is the shortest.

How is child support paid?

There are several methods to pay child support. These are the most common:

  • Directly to the payee
  • Through the Florida Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement Office where both parties create accounts to pay into and to receive those funds
  • Through an Income Withholding Order (or Income Deduction Order) which is when the payor's paycheck gets garnished to ensure that payee receives those funds

What to do when the other parent doesn't pay what they're supposed to?

While not paying your child support obligation can be distressing to the parent to whom the payments are owed, it does not give that parent the right to withhold timesharing from the non-paying parent if there is a parenting plan in place. The remedy for the parent who depends on that child support to meet the child's needs is by filing a motion for contempt and enforcement.

Florida has stringent child support laws to ensure that a parent is paying his/her required amount of support. There are several legal consequences that a person can face if they're willingly avoiding paying child support, such as income withholding, suspension of driver's license or professional licenses and even imprisonment (if the situation is extreme).

Child support enforcement in Florida is taken seriously, and the state has a dedicated agency, the Florida Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement, that oversees and enforces child support orders. Parents who encounter difficulties in receiving child support payments or need assistance with enforcement can seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney or contact the Florida Department of Revenue's Child Support Enforcement for support and guidance throughout the enforcement process.

If you're having difficulties in receiving child support payments or are unable to pay your due child support and are in need of legal assistance to modify the child support, contact us today for a consultation. We're here to help!

About the Author

LEISA WINTZ

Leisa Wintz originally began her career as a marriage and family therapist. Ms. Wintz went on to attend law school and started practicing family law in 2009. However, she quickly realized that many family law practices lacked the empathy and compassion she believed were necessary in order to achi...

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