Florida Child Support
Florida child support laws include a child support enforcement program, support guidelines that set the amount of child support according to parents' income and other factors, and review of child support orders every three years or when a change in circumstances dictates that a change in the child support payment is needed.
Getting a Florida Child Support Order
In Florida, parents who wish to collect child support for their minor children must obtain a court order requiring the non-custodial parent to pay. A court order may be obtained as part of a divorce settlement or as part of legal proceeding to confirm a custody arrangement arranged by the parents by agreement. A court order may also be obtained as part of a separate action for child support or to prove paternity.
Florida's Child Support Enforcement Program will assist parents in the process of proving paternity and obtaining a court order for support. Their aim is to protect the best interests of the child, however, so they don't provide legal advice to parents nor do they act as a legal advocate of either parent. The program also doesn't help parents to file for divorce, negotiate a divorce settlement or otherwise deal with any separation issues other than child custody.
Those parents who need basic assistance obtaining or enforcing a support order can find a Child Support Enforcement customer service center on the website of the Florida Department of Revenue. Parents who need assistance beyond what the program provides may wish to speak with an attorney who specializes in family or divorce law.
Florida Child Support Calculations
In the state of Florida, uniform guidelines are used to ensure that every child receives an appropriate amount of support from both parents. The guidelines can be found in Title VI, Chapter 6, section 61.30. The amount dictated by these guidelines is presumed to be the amount of support that the child is due, so if parents wish to use a different support amount when negotiating their own agreement, there must be a compelling reason for the deviation.
Under the guidelines, the combined income of both parents is used to determine the total basic amount of support a child should receive each month. The combined income is equal to money earned from wages and all other sources, minus money spent on taxes and existing child support obligations.
Once the math has been done to determine the parent's combined income, Florida provides a guideline schedule specifying how much in total the child should receive at different levels of income. The number of children is also taken into account. For instance, as of 2011, parents with a combined income of $1,000 per month would have a basic support obligation for one child of $235 but a basic support obligation for six children of $410.
Each parent is responsible for paying a percentage of the basic support amount equal to his/her percentage of the family's combined income. The non-custodial parent must pay this amount, along with additional funds for childcare and medical care, to the custodial parent. A reduction in the amount owed is also made if the non-custodial parent spends some time with the child in his/her care.
Enforcing Child Support
Parents must pay the support amounts ordered by the court. Failure to do so can result in a contempt of court citation. The Child Support Enforcement Program may also take a number of enforcement actions to help ensure child support is paid. For instance, they may notify the parents of missed payments, suspend their driver's license, seize lottery winnings or tax refunds, or order the money be withdrawn directly from the parent's paycheck in a process called wage garnishment or wage attachment.
Modifying Child Support Orders
Review of child support orders may be requested every three years to determine if the required support amount is still appropriate. The Child Support Enforcement Program will conduct a review upon request and, if determined appropriate, will petition the court to make a change to the support order.
Parents may also request modification of a support order if there has been a material change in the circumstances of the child or of either of the parents. If the program does not petition for the change in support on behalf of the parents, the parents may go to court and file their own request for change with the judge.
Child support in Florida is a fundamental right of every child. Parents who need help securing that right may take advantage of the programs offered by the Department of Revenue. However, in more complex cases or when other issues are involved beyond a simple support order, parents may also wish to speak with an attorney.