The amount of child support is based on guidelines spelled out under Florida law. Child support guidelines are standards used to figure out the support needed for a child and the amount a parent has to pay. Guidelines help make sure support amounts are fair. Every state has guidelines, but they may be different in each state.
These guidelines are used the first time child support is ordered and every time the child support amount changes. They are also used to review the order to see if the support amount should be changed.
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Child support guidelines consider:
- The income of both parents
- The child’s health care and child care costs
- The standard needs for the child
The court or agency establishing support must use these guidelines to decide the amount of child support that will go in a Florida support order. In special circumstances, support amounts can be higher or lower than the guideline amounts. For example, a judge may consider a child’s high medical expenses as a reason to change the support amount. In most cases, judges have to give written reasons why support amounts are different from guideline amounts.
Both parents have a monthly child support obligation. If the child lives with his or her mom, then the child’s dad sends his monthly contribution to mom so she can add it to her contribution and use the combined monthly total to pay the child’s hobby/entertainment expenses and portion of the household bills. Alternatively, the court can order child support payments to be made to the state disbursement unit, where it is collected, recorded, and disbursed. The court can order that the child support be paid voluntarily or by an automatic deduction from each paycheck.
Modification of Support Orders and Time Sharing
If there has been a substantial change of circumstances or misconduct, support and time-sharing may be modified by the Courts. Examples of changes of circumstance include changing needs of children (as through age or illness), changes in income, relocation and misconduct.
Ways to Enforce Child Support Orders
- Notify the parents when they miss payments
- Suspend Florida driver licenses
- Take IRS tax refunds
- Take tax refunds to pay past due support
- Take Florida Lottery winnings if over $600
- Take support payments from unemployment and worker’s compensation
- Tell employers to take payments from paychecks
- Place liens on the parent’s car, boat, or other property
- Report past due support to credit agencies
- Place a hold and take money from bank accounts
- Take the case to court because the parent did not do what the order says; support orders can be enforced through contempt, that is putting the non-paying parent in jail
If you are going through dissolution of marriage and you have minor children (under the age of 18), Florida law requires you to complete an approved 4-hour Parent Education and Family Stabilization course. This course is designed to educate, train and assist parents in ways to minimize the emotional impact on you and your children. Each parent must independently take and complete the course before the Court will grant the dissolution of marriage.
If two people cannot agree on custody issues, the court will take into consideration the best interest and well-being of the child, and each parent’s ability to take care of the child without the other party being present. One of the biggest issues the court will consider is the willingness of each parent to ensure that the children are able to see and communicate with the other parent.
Florida has done away with the concept of custody as well as “visitation.” In an effort to help parents avoid fighting over visitation and custody, the Florida legislature adopted the concept of “time-sharing” to replace the old regime of awarding custody to one parent or the other.
The Courts will consider the following factors in making a determination on the issue of time-sharing:
- The ability of each parent to have a close relationship with the child;
- The ability of each parent to work with the other parent;
- The ability of each parent to put the needs of the child before his or her own needs;
- How parental responsibilities will likely be divided when the divorce is finalized;
- Whether each parent will require some sort of child care during his or her time-sharing schedule;
- How long the child has lived in a stable home;
- Whether the parents live near each other and the child’s school;
- How well the child is doing in school;
- How well informed each parent is of the child’s scholastic and extracurricular activities;
- Whether each parent is involved in the child’s school or extracurricular activities;
- The ability of each parent to provide a routine for the child;
- Whether each parent is morally fit;
- The physical and mental health of each parent;
- The preference of the child;
- Whether there has been any domestic violence or other abuse or neglect;
- Whether either parent has falsely accused the other parent of abuse;
- The responsibilities of each parent toward the child before the petition for divorce was filed;
- Whether either parent has exposed the child to alcohol or drug abuse;
- Whether each parent has shielded the child from the divorce litigation;
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s current and future developmental needs; and
- Anything else that the court believes is relevant.
For a free consultation on all of these issues, contact Hoffman, Larin and Agnetti, PA at (305) 653-5555. We have offices in Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. Our attorneys have handled thousands of family law cases since 1975.