Generally, child custody and support are established during divorce proceedings. However, parents who were never married are still entitled to child support. All children are entitled to support to meet their basic needs. If you are having difficulty getting child support that is owed to you, it is best to consult a Florida family law attorney.
Procedures for Obtaining Child Support
To legally obtain child support, you must go through the court system or visit your local child support office. If you and your partner create a verbal or written agreement together, non-payment cannot be pursued by the law. While you may be able to reach an agreement at the time of separation, you cannot be sure one partner won’t change their mind. Your family law attorney will help you get started with the proper forms.
After filing your claim for child support, you will be contacted for information regarding your financial situation and that of your spouse. (If you applied for other government assistance, child support enforcement may have been contacted on your behalf.) It is important to comply with this step. However, it can be difficult to gather information about a parent wishing to avoid payment. Your attorney and the support enforcement office can help get this information. You must also disclose any court case that has involved your child in the past. It may take 6 to 8 months to obtain the support order.
Determination of Payment Amount
In Florida, the income of both parents and the amount of time the child spends living with each parent work to determine the payment amount. There are many factors that define the final amount, but Florida payments are determined by the following calculations.
- 1 child – 20 percent of income
- 2 children – 28 percent of income
- 3 children – 32 percent of income
- 4 children – 40 percent of income
- 5 children – 45 percent of income
- 6 children – 50 percent of income
Along with the use of the calculator, other factors are considered. Some special circumstances may be considered regarding the income of both parents, and the healthcare needs of the child. Florida guidelines include some additional deviations. Payments may be different from the amounts calculated above if the child has excess medical, psychological, or educational expenses. This change would distribute these needs evenly between both parents.
The age of the child(ren) is an important factor regarding the payment amount. Older children may have larger expenses. The independent income earned by the child may also be considered. If parental income varies with seasons, payments may need to be changed as well. A parent will not be required to pay more than 50 percent of their income toward child support payments.
Your custody plan will also be considered when determining payments. The number of overnight stays is an important factor. Other activities may be considered as well. If a parent fails to uphold a joint custody arrangement, support payments may be modified.
Enforcing Child Support Payments
In the event that your spouse refuses to pay or stops making payments, there are ways to enforce support through Florida law. Sometimes, it is difficult to obtain information about a parent attempting to dodge support payments. A family law attorney can help you find the best options to regain unpaid child support.
The Enforcement Unit of the Child Support Department may take the following actions to enforce payment.
- Wage Garnishment – Employers can deduct the amount of support owed before payment for labor.
- Freezing Bank Accounts – A computer search can reveal active bank accounts of non-paying parents which can be frozen.
- Referral for Contempt – Failing to follow a court order is contempt of court which can lead to fines and jail time.
- Suspension of Licenses – Vehicle and professional licenses can be temporarily suspended.
- Liens – Liens can be placed on real estate and personal property.
- IRS Interception – Tax returns can be taken to help cover delinquent payments.
- Lottery Winnings – If a parent wins more than 600 dollars in the Florida state lottery, the winnings can be used for delinquent support.
Florida child support enforcement works with departments in other states to ensure payment from parents who live in another state. In cases that involve other states, enforcement tactics are used that comply with the laws in both states. A family law attorney is especially useful in these cases to act as a liaison between the cases of each state.
If the support you receive is insufficient, you may be able to modify your payments. This is done by filing a modification petition with the court. This is usually only considered with a significant financial change by either parent. It is important to note that once the modification is filed, the court must see in through even if payments decrease.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Help
There are laws in place to support the needs of children and the families who care for them. However, court cases can become lengthy and difficult. Your family law attorney understands the statutes surrounding your case. An attorney can help you speed up the process by preparing the proper forms, searching for a missing parent, and enforcing support payments.
Child custody and support cases are always difficult and painful for families to endure. Providing for your child(ren) should not be a complication of your separation. If you are facing a child support case in the Orlando area, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation. The Law Office of Erin Morse is ready to fight for your right to provide the best care for your children.