Timothy J. Nusser, P.A.is a Pensacola family law attorney with extensive experience in child support cases.
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 their financial obligation is not in compliance with Florida Statute. Remedies such as driver license or professional license suspension and Contempt of Court proceedings, which may result in incarceration, are remedies that a parent who is supposed to receive child support (Payee) can take to enforce the existing order and leverage the other parent into compliance.
To ensure payment, the court may also issue an Income Withholding Order (IWO) if the Payee requests one. The Payor cannot object to an IWO. This type of order is sent to the employer of the person responsible for paying child support (Payor). The employer becomes legally obligated to withdraw the designated sum from the Payor’s paycheck and send it to the State of Florida to be passed on to the custodial parent. The amount withheld/taken according to federal law can be as high as 50-65% depending upon whether the Payor has other dependents and the amount they may behind on child support.
If you are the parent who is responsible for paying child support, payment can be difficult because you, like everyone else can run into financial distress through no fault of your own. Therefore, it is important that the support obligation be 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. If you are a Payor and you are supposed to pay support through the Clerk of Court or Florida Disbursement Unit, you absolutely must do so. If you are paying directly by cash or money order, the computer keeping child support records in Tallahasse has no idea that support is being paid. You may never get proper credit for those payments.
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 straight forward 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 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 easy answer is “No”. The payor parent might save $1200 but, they would spend at least that much with an attorney to take the chance of success.
If the Payor parent has not been paying child support and they think 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 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, that the payee parent had knowledge of their whereabouts, that the delay was so long as to permit a reasonable belief that the other parent (Payee/Obligee) 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 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 even differing interpretations as to what is a “permanent” change. Some appellate cases say it means a change lasting at least 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. We have been serving Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa County for more than 20 years !
Pensacola FL Child Support Attorney
When calculating child support, it is important to make sure you are using accurate information about income and expenses and that you are aware of situations where the courts can deviate from the child support formula. We are very familiar with these issues.
Parents sometimes try to hide income or provide false information to avoid paying child support. At Timothy J. Nusser, P.A., we can investigate your ex-spouse’s financial circumstances to calculate child support properly.
Our team will assists clients with the initial establishment of child support and with the modification and enforcement of child support orders. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney, call our priority line at 850-437-5555.
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