Florida Child Support Laws

child support

Child support is a court-ordered obligation of the financial responsibilities for a child’s care, maintenance, training, and education. See Florida child support law 39.01. It is the responsibility of every parent, regardless of whether the two parents are married, divorced, or single. Under the state’s child support law, parents cannot waive child support payment obligations. See Finn v. Finn. Parents of a minor child have a legal and moral duty to aid and maintain their child.

The amount of child support will be based on Florida’s Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines outline the amount of assistance to be paid for each specific case. The payment amount is based primarily on the parents’ income, custody rights, and the number of children involved. The court will strictly enforce the Florida Child Support Guidelines in most instances. However, in some circumstances, the judge can deviate from the Guidelines. A family law attorney in Florida can help provide examples of when a judge may alter from the Guidelines.

What Does Child Support Cover?

The child support process intends to ensure the child continues to be provided with an acceptable standard of living. All child support payments are meant for the benefit of the child. However, some benefits may incidentally accrue to the non-paying parent. For example, child support payments may include the following items.

  • Food and Clothing. In addition to weekly groceries, account for eating out and school meals and; regularly shopping for clothes.
  • Educational Expenses. Tuition, uniforms, books, supplies, and activities (after-school sports, music lessons, etc.) may be covered.
  • Medical Costs. Out-of-pocket medical expenses (deductibles, uncovered services, etc.) required to maintain a child in good health may be included.
  • Hobbies, Activities, and Entertainment. There is more to life than good food, education, and health. Remember to include expenses for summer camps, swimming lessons, and movies.

How To Determine The Amount Of Child Support In Florida

The amount of payments will be based on the Florida Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines outline the financial responsibilities required based on the parent’s net income and the number of children involved. The amount and duration of child support payments will vary based on the individual circumstances of each case. For information about your specific case, seek the advice of a child custody lawyer.

The main factors determining the amount of support payments are the combined monthly incomes of both parents and the number of children they share. The number of overnight stays each parent has with the children will also impact the amount of support payment required. Additional factors such as the child’s medical, dental, psychological, and educational needs will also be a note for consideration.

Child support will likely be paid even if the children spend equal time with each parent. It is a rare case when neither parent is responsible for support payments. For instance, if there is equal timesharing, but the mother earns more money, she may be required to pay child support. Generally, support will be provided unless both parents earn the same income and have equal custody.

How To Deviate from The Florida Child Support Guidelines

The judge will often follow the state’s Child Support Guidelines when deciding the amount of support. However, the court does have the discretion to deviate from the Guidelines if the facts warrant it. Regardless, child support must be reasonable and not require the other parent to pay more than they can afford. See Marsh v. Marsh. When deciding whether to deviate from the Guidelines, the court will consider all relevant factors. These factors include but are not limited to: the child’s needs, the standard of living, each parent’s age, and the financial status of each parent. See Finley v. Scott. A written explanation will be required if the Court deviates from the Child Support Guidelines by more than 5%.

Parents of a minor child have a legal and moral duty to support and maintain their child. See Martland v. Arabia. Under Florida’s child support law, parents cannot waive child support obligations. Parents are allowed to stipulate and agree to the amount of payments; however, the amount of aid must be in the child’s best interests. Support agreements are subject to approval by the state’s family law court. The agreements will only be approved if the benefits provide for the proper care and maintenance of the child. See Wendel v. Wendel.

Enforcement Of Child Support Payments

Florida has stringent child support laws to ensure that a parent is paying their required amount of support. A parent may seek assistance from Florida’s Department of Revenue or a private child support law firm. A parent also has many different types of sanctions when enforcing a child support program.

Under Florida child support law, a court is authorized to garnish wages to enforce child support payment. A wage garnishment automatically deducts the funds from the payor’s paycheck. The garnishment can occur periodically and continue for as long as the court deems necessary. Further, orders for child support payments are not susceptible to the head of household defense to garnishments. See Waddell v. Schwarz.

Tax refunds may be garnished to satisfy the Florida child support program. Further, the court can order the exemption to be allocated to the payee on a permanent or rotating basis. The dependent tax exemption can be a substantial amount of money. Therefore, this can be a significant penalty for failure to comply with a support order in some cases.

Failure to pay support can result in a driver’s license suspension. See Florida family law 61.13016. Further, under Florida Statute 61.13015, the payor’s professional license can be suspended as well. However, the suspension can be stopped if it would result in irreparable harm to the payor and not help collect payment. Additionally, the court may refuse to suspend a license if there is a good faith effort to make payments.

Contempt For Failure To Pay Child Support

Either civil or criminal contempt can enforce failure to comply with a court order of support. However, civil contempt is used much more frequently than criminal contempt. To convict a person of criminal contempt, the evidence must prove the defendant can pay, and the failure to pay is willful and intentional. Further, since it is a criminal prosecution, it must comply with Rule 3.840 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. See Bowen v. Bowen.

If convicted of criminal contempt for failure to pay, the incarceration must not exceed 180 days. The incarceration is designed to encourage payment of the due funds rather than as punishment. Therefore, often a court will purge the contempt if the defendant pays a specified amount.

On the other hand, the burden of civil contempt is much easier to satisfy. Civil contempt only requires there to be an existing order of support that has not been paid timely. Even though the burden is lower, there may still be defenses to contempt. For instance, showing that due to circumstances beyond their control, they no longer have the ability to tender the payments may avoid contempt. For this defense to apply, the defendant must prove the failure to pay is unintentional. Further, the payor must also prove that the inability to pay is due to an intervening circumstance not contemplated at the time of the original order.

Consult an Experienced Family Law Firm in Florida

The attorneys at Florida Law Advisers, P.A., have years of experience advocating for and against child support. We understand how important these matters are and fight hard for our clients. If you need help with a child support program, call us at (800) 990-7763 to request a free consultation with a Florida family attorney over the phone for your convenience.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Guidelines determine how much child support will be paid by each parent. The Guidelines are essentially a mathematical formula to determine the amount of support. The amount will be largely based on the parents’ net income, custody arrangement, and the number of children involved.

You are not required to hire a lawyer, but it is recommended to obtain a lawyer to assist. The judge can even require the other party to pay your attorney’s fees, as a sanction for their failure to comply with the court order.

Typically, a motion for contempt is used when a parent stops paying child support. If the motion is granted, the court will require the support to be paid. Additionally, the judge can impose penalties until the child support is paid.

A petition to establish child support can be filed in court to establish child support. The amount of support will be based on Florida’s Child Support Guidelines. You are not required to hire an attorney, but it is recommended to obtain an attorney.

At Florida Law Advisers, P.A., we are committed to solving your divorce, bankruptcy, and immigration matters. We are a full-service law firm serving clients in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Orlando, and throughout Central Florida.