Raising children as a single parent or with shared parenting is challenging and without adequate financial support from the other parent, life can be even more difficult. There are certain fundamental legal responsibilities that every parent must fulfill – one of which is to provide financial support to their child(ren) in order to ensure their physical, mental and social well being.
A parent who is not fulfilling this obligation is therefore in contravention of Florida Statute. Remedies such as driver license or professional license suspension and Contempt of Court proceedings, which may include incarceration, are remedies that a parent who is supposed to receive child support (Payee) can take to enforce the existing order and leverage compliance.
To ensure payment, the court may also provide an Income Withholding Order (IWO) if the Payee requests one. The Payor has no say in this. This type of order is sent to the employer of the person responsible for paying child (Payor). The employer is then legally obligated to pay the support to the custodial parent up to the highest percentage permitted by federal law before any compensation for work is paid.
If you are the parent who is responsible for paying child support, payment can be difficult because you are like everyone because you can run into financial distress through no fault of your own. Therefore, it is important that the support obligation is set at a reasonable amount. If the amount is too high, the paying parent loses the ability to provide their child(ren) with those the little extras that every parent wants to give.
Our staff will examine your financial information and the other side’s documents to ensure that the calculation is correct. In some cases, a deviation upward or downward from the amount set in the child support guidelines can be requested.
Because the Florida Statute provides a formula to calculate child support, it is supposed to a straightforward event. Many, many times this is not the case because there are so many factors that the court must take into account when determining the amount of support that should be paid for a child. Gross income, net income, mandatory deductions from payroll, receipt or payment of alimony, court-ordered support paid for other children, child care costs, health insurance premiums paid by a parent or new spouse, the number of overnights per year that each parent has the child are all considered. If a parent has unusual transportation costs or seasonal employment, or the child has an income of their own or has special needs, these should all be considered, too.
A child support obligation is always modifiable during the time that the child is under the age of 18 or has not yet graduated from high school but, will graduate before attaining the age of 19. If a recalculation results in an increase or decrease of $50 per month or 15% of the current support obligation (whichever is greater), a substantial change in circumstance is deemed to have occurred and child support becomes modifiable.
If the Payor wants to modify their support obligation they need to consider whether it is financially worth the expense to modify. For example, if the child is 17 and will graduate at or very near the time they turn 18 (12 months) should the parent spend $1000 to $1500 to reduce their payment by $100 per month. Here the answer is, “No”. The payor parent might save $1200 but, they would spend at least that much to take the chance of success.
If the Payor parent has not been paying child support and thinks they can run out the clock until the child is an adult, there is bad news. There is no statute of limitations on the enforcement of child support and child support arrears. Therefore, a child support obligation can be enforced after the child(ren) emancipate, and even against the estate of the payor parent after their death.
The one exception to this rule about child support arrears being enforced at any time arises when the payor parent can prove laches or equitable estoppel. To prove laches, means that the payor parent must show that a substantial period of time has passed and that the payee parent had knowledge of their whereabouts and that the delay was so long as to permit a reasonable belief that the other parent would not seek to enforce the child support arrears, that the payor parent relied upon this belief to their detriment and that they would now be harmed should the payee parent now attempt to enforce the arrears. An example of equitable estoppel would be where the parents entered into an oral agreement to reduce the payor parent’s child support obligation by exchanging something of similar value such as a purchasing a vehicle or making payment of certain expenses for the child in lieu of payment of child support.
In 2017 the “Florida Responsible Parent Act” was proposed in the Florida House which would create new rules for payor parents who were delinquent on their child support and trying to avoid having their driver’s licenses suspended. The House the bill would allow people to file a petition to contest a delinquency action in circuit court claiming the inability to make the required payments due to “circumstances including, but not limited to, temporary interruption in employment as the result of natural disaster, incapacitation as the result of an illness or temporary medical condition, or temporary unexpected involuntary unemployment.” This would be a very big change to current law which requires that a change be “permanent”. (Naturally, there are different interpretations to permanent. Some cases say it means one (1) year while others say this is not so.) Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending upon your position, the bill was passed over in the Florida Senate. Perhaps, it will be addressed in 2108. Stayed tuned for developments.
Contact Timothy J. Nusser, P.A., an experienced Family Law attorney in Pensacola Florida to discuss your child support situation.
Disclaimer: The hiring a child support attorney in Pensacola is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience.