Child support can be one of the most contentious issues that parties and lawyers have to deal with in a family law case. That’s probably why most people are so surprised to learn that it’s actually one of the straightforward parts of any case to address.
Whether it’s as part of a divorce case, a paternity case, or a modification, every child support calculation begins the same way – with a look at each parent’s income.
Contrary to some popular belief, both parents, under Florida law, have a legal obligation to provide financial support to their children. So, courts calculate a total child support obligation based on the parents’ combined monthly income and the number of children involved.
Then the court assigns each parent a percentage of the total child support obligation in proportion to that parent’s percentage of the combined monthly income.
There are other factors, besides income, that impact the amount each parent is expected to pay for child support – childcare costs, health insurance payments, and the frequency of overnight timesharing all play a role.
Child support orders in Florida are modifiable when there is a substantial change in the financial circumstances of one or both of the parties.
If your income has gone down permanently since the child support order was originally entered, you can ask the court to recalculate the amount that you owe.
If, on the other hand, the decrease in your income is only temporary, you can also ask the court to put a temporary hold on your obligation to pay.
The bottom line is that there are options available to you if you cannot pay child support as ordered. If you are upfront about the issues you are facing, courts will generally understand.
But, the one thing you should not do is to simply ignore the child support altogether.
Florida courts recognize how important it is that children receive the financial support that they need. That’s why child support orders in Florida are enforceable by contempt of court.
If someone has been ordered to pay child support, and that person does not pay despite having the ability to do so, the court could find him or her in contempt.
If someone is found to be in contempt of court, he or she could be ordered to pay not only back child support, but also hefty fines and attorney’s fees. He or she could also be ordered to jail.
For whatever reason, some parents decide that they don’t want any child support from the other parent in their divorce or family law case. The problem with this position is that child support isn’t up to the parents to decide.
Under Florida law, child support exists as and for the benefit of the minor children or child. It belongs to the child, not the parents. And therefore, the parents cannot agree to waive the obligation to pay child support.
Whenever a case involves minor children, the court is required by law to enter a child support order.
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