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 Tampa 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 in Tampa.
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.
Child Support With Shared Custody
In cases involving joint custody, the court will typically apply a four-step analysis to determine the amount of child support. The first step is to calculate the total amount of child support payments required by reviewing the Guidelines. Next, the court will determine each parent’s share under the Guidelines. Each parent’s share is determined by dividing their monthly income by the combined monthly of both parents. Next, the court will determine the amount of time each parent has custody of the child as a percentage. For instance, if the parents have 50/50 custody, their responsibility will be 50%.
The fourth step is to review the Child Support Guidelines to determine each parent’s share of the support. The court will proportion the complete support responsibilities on the percentage of time each parent has custody of the child. See Jaworski v. Jaworski. If the combined monthly net income exceeds the $10,000 listed in the Guidelines, additional calculations will be needed. The amount over $10,000 will be based on the number of children and income above $10,000. See Florida child support law 61.30.
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.
Back Owed Child Support In Florida
Under Florida child support law, a parent has the right to seek retroactively (back owed) child support. Generally, retroactive child support will date back to when the parents stopped residing together in the same home. Regardless, the period for retroactive child support in Florida cannot exceed 24 months.
The Florida statute on retroactive child support was enacted in 1998. Before the retroactive child support law was passed, back-owed support for paternity cases was not limited to 24 months and could go as far back as the child’s birth. Therefore, if a child was born before 1998, the amount of back owed payments will not be limited to just 24 months. In these cases, the mother may seek child support dating back to the date the child was born. Additionally, a parent may be able to sue for retroactive child support even after the child turns 18. See Campagna v. Cope.
The Amount Of Retroactive Child Support
The amount of child support will be paid based primarily on the Florida Child Support Guidelines. This can be very difficult in retroactive child support cases because the parent’s income may have fluctuated during the period child support should have been paid. For instance, if the parent’s income varied weekly, the court may have to make individual determinations for each week during the 24 months.
Usually, retroactive support will be added to the monthly payment of future child support. All payments made by the father to benefit the child throughout the retroactive period can be considered. Additionally, the court must consider allowing a payment plan for the total amount of retroactive child support in a timely manner.
Later Born Children
If a parent is ordered to pay child support, it can affect the amount of support required for subsequent children. The amount paid can be deducted from the parent’s gross income used for Florida child support payment calculations. See Child Support Law 61.30(3)(f). Keep in mind; this only applies to a child support order. Thus, if a parent voluntarily provides support without a court order, the deduction will not apply under this Florida statute.
Under Florida statutes regarding child support law, adjustments to the Guidelines may be premised on a parent’s reasonable and necessary expenses. Providing support for other children can potentially be classified as a reasonable and necessary expense under the law. See Flanagan v. Flanagan. These cases can be complicated and require thorough Florida child support law knowledge. Therefore, if you need help, contact a Tampa child custody attorney.
Child Support When Parents Live In Different States
When parents live in different states, it can create jurisdictional issues with the court. If the case is not filed correctly, the court may not have jurisdiction (authority) to enforce the support. Therefore, it is essential to reference the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) for such cases. Under federal law, each state must have the UIFSA in effect to enforce child support orders. The UIFSA provides uniformity amongst the states for child support processes and procedures. Additionally, it provides for enforcement of support orders from foreign states. Thus, under the UIFSA, a Tampa child support attorney can take legal action to enforce a child support order on a resident of another state.
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
The UIFSA can also be utilized in Florida to secure child support when parents live in different states. Thus, a Florida court can establish a child support case, regardless of the parent seeking payments is residing outside of Florida. Conversely, Florida can also assist with enforcing a support order from another state. See Florida Child Support Law 88.4011.
Under the UIFSA, all states must recognize and enforce support obligations from other states. Therefore, a Florida attorney can help with child support when parents live in different states. For instance, if a Florida family law court issues a child support order and the father subsequently moves to Georgia, the UIFSA will assist in enforcing the order in Georgia. Without the UIFSA, Florida may not have jurisdiction to enforce child support when parents live in different states.
The Florida Department of Revenue can also assist in collecting child support. The Florida Department of Revenue can garnish wages, suspend a driver’s license, and withhold federal income tax refunds. If the party obligated to pay is not a Florida resident, the Department can also assist in working with states with jurisdiction. Additionally, the enforcement action will not be barred simply because the adolescent is over the age of 18. See Florida v. Vorac. The Florida Department of Revenue can be a great resource, but they are no substitute for a custody attorney. If you need legal advice, consider contacting a child custody law firm in your area.
Hiding Income For Child Support
Unfortunately, many individuals will underreport their income to avoid or lower the child support payment. In cases such as these, the imputation of income may be a valuable tool to secure. If the other party is hiding income, the court can impute a salary on that parent. The court can also impute income if the other party is unemployed or underemployed. If proven, the parent will be obligated to pay support based on the imputed salary,
Under Florida law, when a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court shall impute income. The income should be based on the parent’s employment potential and probable earning capacity. In imputation cases, the court will consider the parent’s work history, qualifications, and prevailing income level in the community. See Florida child support case Guard v. Guard.
The family law judge must make specific factual findings based on evidence relating to the current job market, the parent’s employment history, and the prevailing salary in the local community to impute income. If there is sufficient evidence to support the court’s imputation of income, it will not be reversed on appeal request without a finding that the court abused its discretion. See Rojas v. Rojas.
How To Impute Income
The court will usually apply a two-part test for alleged imputation of income cases. First, it must be determined that the lack of employment or reduction in income was voluntary. Second, the court must have determined that the loss of income resulting from the parent’s pursuit of their own interest is due to a less than diligent and bona fide effort to obtain employment at an income level equal to what the parent could earn. See Schram v. Schram.
Typically, Florida courts won’t focus on if the parent left their previous employment voluntarily or involuntarily. Instead, the focus is on what the parent has done since the prior employment. For instance, has the parent remained unemployed voluntarily or made a bona fide good faith effort to find employment. The child support lawyer seeking to impute income will have the burden of proof. Based on the two-part test above, the lawyer must show that income should be imputed to the other parent.
Modifying Child Support In Florida
If there has been a substantial change in circumstances, support may be modified. The judge will only be concerned with changes that occurred after the prior case. Issues that arose before the initial case will usually not be considered for modifications. This is true even if there are facts that were not discussed in the prior case. Typically, judges will only be interested in changes since the last order was issued.
For instance, if a parent has encountered an increase or decrease in income, support may be modified. Generally, there will need to be at least a 10% change in income to qualify as a substantial change. Even if you had a decrease in income, that does not automatically mean support payments will decrease. For instance, the opposing party may have also had a reduction in income, and that decrease may be more significant. Thus, it is recommended to discuss all the case facts with an attorney before filing for a modification. A thorough review will likely be necessary to develop a successful plan to lower child support payments.
Generally, the more time a parent spends with the child, the lower their support payments. Therefore, if the amount of overnight stays with the children is modified, support may need to be adjusted accordingly. Support may also need to be modified if the timesharing arrangement has changed. See Bloom v. Panchysyn.
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 a 5-Star Family Law Firm in Tampa
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 844 698 3765 to request a free consultation with a Tampa family attorney over the phone for your convenience.