Many states have differing laws pertaining to child support, but in Florida both parents are obligated to provide for all the necessities of their minor child or children, as it is the basic right of the child to receive sustenance, financial support and all needs. The premise underlying child support is that every imaginable need of the child is addressed and that child is able to experience the parents’ produced from their endeavors.
Child Support Regulations within the Context of Florida Law
Within the boundaries of the Sunshine State, both parents are legally responsible to provide for their minor child or children, however, this is categorized as a right that child has and not one attributed to the parents. The primary achievement of child support is ultimately to satisfy a child’s requirements for food, clothing and shelter as well as take part in the financial resources and material possessions of the parents.
How is Child Support Determined?
The actual amount of child support is computed from a numerical formula that incorporates the total income of both parents, the amount of money that must be set forth for things such as health insurance and childcare expenses. Also, the equation does encompass how many full evenings a child is with each parent. If one parent does not have their child for a minimum of 73 overnight periods annually, this will play a factor in how child support is arrived at due to the fact both parents are equally responsible for that’s child’s needs and if one parent is the primary person to care for the child, there financial responsibility will be greater than the other parent, as they spend more time with the child.
When a sum for child support is created, it is highly possible support from a retroactive date will be applied as the time period the parents decided to terminate their relationship and the time the child support order is entered may be divergent. In addition, if the parents decided to end their relationship more than 24 months before the child support action was introduced, retroactive fees may be incorporated as a matter of fact.
How Is The Amount of Child Support Determined?
The specific sum is arrived at by incorporating the net income of each parent, health insurance expenses paid by the parents and the cost of childcare into a set formula. Also, the formula does include how many nights the child or children are with each parent. For example, if one parent does not have the child or children the majority of the time and has a minimum of 73 overnight visits annually, then the amount of time the child or children spend with each parent would be included in the formula. This would alter the amount of child support to be disbursed. This decrease in child support comes from the fact both parents have to provide for a child’s basic needs while that child is in their care.
When the amount of child support has been established, support may also be determined for the date when the parents made the decision to part ways until the court order for child support was entered. In addition, if the parents separated more than two years before child support paperwork was filed, retroactive support may also be mandated for that time period until the order for support is finalized.
Can The Amount of Child Support Change?
Certainly. Child support can be altered at any juncture depending upon the illustration of a significant and unforeseeable transition in financial situations.
Examples of this are:
- Termination of employment or a marked increase or decrease in income from said job
- If the child spends more or less time in child care
- If a parent becomes injured or ill and is unable to work’
- If health insurance premiums diminish or accumulate more than 15% percent of the previous sum
- If any such above mentioned change exists for at least 12 months
It is important to recognize, however, when child support is modified it only goes into effect on the day the paperwork was filed to change it. As a result, any child support that was previously owed prior to this calendar day will still be charged to said parent. There is only one allowance to this rule and that is when each parent spends a significant amount of time with the child or children before one parent no longer participates at the same level or their time increases.
Child Support Modification?
Child support can be modified at any time by providing detailed information about a significant, enduring and unexpected alteration in circumstances. Examples that would fall under this category encompass losing employment, a child may no longer need childcare or the amount of that childcare changes, if a parent becomes disabled, if the cost of health insurance is raised, or if there is a large fluctuation in a parent’s net income. The alteration must be at least 15 percent to qualify. Also, an enduring situation is defined as an instance that is anticipated to remain the same for a minimum of one year.
Usually a modification can only be valid as of the date the action was filed which means any child support that was not paid after the circumstances changed until the date of the order of modification will still be owed and considered to be in arrears. It is important to note there is one exception to that standard. If child support was instituted founded on both parents spending a similar amount of time with the child or children and one parent chooses not to take that allotment of time, then the child support can be modified back to the date the parent commenced not spending the initial time stated with the child or children.
How are Child Support Payments Collected and Distributed?
There are numerous devices employed to procure funds for child support orders. These include:
- Contempt of court for violating a court order
- Suspending the driver’s license of a parent that is arrears
- Establishing a lien on personal property
- Taking away passport privileges
- Freezing bank accounts or other financial sources
- A judgment entered by the Clerk of Courts
Again, it is essential to take note it is always in a parent’s best interests to keep current with their child support payments throughout the process. Also, there is no time limit for collecting back payments. This means a child could legally be an adult where the parent has no financial responsibility, but child support that was not paid prior to the circumstance is still owed to the other parent. That applies even if one parent is deceased, as the funds will be disbursed from their estate.
The only time this does not go into effect is when the parent that owes child support can illustrate the situations of laches or estoppel. This is when the parent that is behind in payments can depict the other parent is not interested in obtaining these back funds and they would sustain considerable, irreparable damage if the arrears payments were pursued. This rule is normally relevant when parents work from an agreement they arranged themselves through word of mouth regarding the situation or they agree amongst themselves to provide other financial resources to pay the child support rather than funds through the court system.
Back Child Support and How It Is Collected
A series of enforcement devices are in place for child support orders including:
- Contempt of court
- Suspension of the party’s drivers’ license that owes money
- Liens being placing on a debtor’s property
The Florida Department of Revenue and other agencies it is linked to can also suspend a passport or take funds from a debtor’s financial accounts to collect child support. Another option is for the Clerk of Court to file a judgment by operation of law on money that is owed when child support is supposed to be paid through the State Disbursement Unit and the Clerk of Court. When this action is filed, interest is also charged to the account. Therefore, it is in a debtor’s best interests to stay current with child support payments or if a back amount does accrue, to pay that as soon as possible.
Keep in mind there is no statute of limitations on how long child support or child support that has not been collected can be enforced for. This means child support can still be collected even after the child or children have been emancipated and can even be extracted from the estate of the obligor after death.
The one allowance to the rule about back child support being pursued in any instance comes into play when the debtor can prove laches or equitable estoppel. This is where the obligor must show he or she had a strong case to believe the other parent did not intend to implement the money owed. The most common situation is where parents decided upon this course of action orally by decreasing the obligor’s payments or substituting personal property, other forms of payment, or payment for other expenses to offset diminishing the amount of the child support payment.