Child support, that is the paying of money from one party to the other for the care of a minor child (a child from birth to age l8 and beyond in special circumstances such as a child who cannot support themselves due to physical or mental disabilities) is a mandatory obligation in the state of Florida. While it sounds simple, the application and process of determining child support is complicated and frequently misunderstood. Here are some of the misconceptions surrounding the child support system in Florida.
Only the mother can receive child support: While for many years, it was almost always the mother who received child support this is no longer true. Child support is based on income and need, and many women today earn more than men. A complex system of completing a worksheet, filling out an in-depth financial disclosure, and putting all the information into a computer program designed to figure out the appropriate amount will determine who will receive the child support and how much that support will be.
Only married couples divorcing are subject to child support: Child support is mandatory for all biological and adoptive parents, whether they every married or even lived together. Florida Family Law courts try to make sure minor children are well cared for.
Child support monies can be spent only on the child: While this is the intent for child support money, there is no accountability to the court required as to how child support money is spent. Unless it can be proven the child’s well-being and needs are neglected, it is unlikely a court will put the paying parent in contempt.
Once child support has been set, it can never be changed: Modifying or changing either the person who is to receive the child support or the amount of child support after the judgment has been handed down is allowed in Florida. It is, however, not an easy procedure and one that, if the person is wise, requires an attorney’s counsel and representation. Three conditions, unanticipated need for change, substantial need, and material need are all needed for a post-judgment modification. A process similar to a divorce proceeding must take place, including in most jurisdictions a pre-court date mediation. All changes requested must be proven beyond a doubt, and a full, in-depth financial disclosure is required as well.
Child support is always a positive experience for both parents: This is not true, especially for the person (usually the father) paying child support in a low-income family. Frequently the person paying does not make enough to pay the ordered amount as many low paying jobs are hourly and subject to fluctuation in a number of hours worked. For example, jobs such as fast food, landscaping, house painting, and cleaning will not be consistent in the number of hours a person is to work each week. Then, if the person gets behind on child support, he or she is subject to possible jail time and loss of a job altogether. Child support continues with no job to support it. Loss of car registration and license is also a Florida penalty for child support arrears. Further, it has been proven that the parent who is unable to pay ordered child support, even with good reason, is looked upon as a “bad” parent and looses positive interaction with his or her children.
As can be seen, child support is a complex issue in the State of Florida. If you will be needing help in working through either receiving or paying child support, be sure to contact an experienced Palm beach gardens child support attorney in your county of residence.