Articles Posted in Child Support

1097376_bens_eyes-300x119Child support is a means of the court obligating parents to meet the financial needs of their children. Florida Statute 61.30 is the Florida child support statute. If you are the biological, adoptive, or legal parent of a child, the state imposes a duty to support that child at a certain level, based on a number of factors. The court considers timesharing, health insurance expenses, daycare costs, household income of both parties, and prior children for whom child support is paid. In addition to this, the number of overnight stays at one parent’s house will directly affect the amount of child support that is owed.

In the state of Florida, the Florida Department of Revenue is responsible for management and enforcement of the child support program. To determine how much child support a noncustodial parent must pay, a standard needs table found in Florida Statute 61.30(6) provides a  starting point for child support calculations.

Many people seem to misunderstand that while they may be providing the other  parent with diaper, wipes, and food, this does not eliminate their obligation to providing the support ordered by the court. Even if support is not ordered by the court, a parent can request retroactive child support for up to two years, prior to an order by the court. Child support is put in place to meet a child’s needs. Typically parents believe that splitting timesharing equally will eliminate their support obligation. But, equally splitting timesharing will not always have that effect. The court will evaluate the needs of the child by considering the factors above. If the child still needs support, beyond the presumed amount of support they are receiving with equal timesharing, the court will still place a child support order in effect to supplement the deficit.

divorce-300x216The Florida Statute governing child support is 61.30. This statute covers in great depth the child support laws in Florida. The statute covers the base level of financial support for each child support obligation based on the household income and also explains in great depth how child support should be calculated for an after born child. Child support is calculated by taking the combined monthly income of both parties and factoring in day care costs, health insurance costs, prior support orders in effect, and few additional factors are also considered. In the instance that a parent has an existing ordered child support obligation and then have a child subsequently born the initial child support obligation for the first child’s benefit will NOT be lowered due to the birth of the second child.

The legislature created this statute in order to prevent a child born before another from being ripped of the support that they were awarded. While the operation of this law may not always have the effect of the birth order taking precedence this is referred to the prohibition of a downward modification as a result of an after born child. The statute does not operate in terms of birth order; instead the operation is in terms of the chronological sequence of judicial orders. Therefore, if a client has a 12 year old son, and he has contributed to the support of this child without a judicial order in place, if the man then has another child and he is ordered to pay child support regarding the second born child, the court is not to consider the amount of support he voluntarily gives the 12 year old child in the initial calculation. The court can take into consideration the older child to support a downward departure from the child support calculation.

If we revisit the previous scenario and the parent was paying child support to the 12 year old in furtherance of a child support order then then second born child’s support amount would be calculated by taking the parent’s income and deducting the amount of child support already paid to the 12 year old THEN calculating the support amount. There are numerous benefits to having a child support order in effect for a parent who is receiving support. The order would solidify the support obligation, allow for a child not to have their support amount reduced by an” after born” child, and it would allow for a calculation of arrearages if support is not paid.

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Parents often express a desire to modify or suspend their child support obligation. The reason for the desire often varies, I’ve heard things such as, the other parent doesn’t mind not receiving support, the child support amount is financially taxing, the child doesn’t need that much money, or that there has been a change in the financial ability to support the child. While the desire to change the child support obligation may be for any of the listed reasons or for another reason entirely, one must understand that a Florida court will grant a modification of child support in the instance that there is a substantial change in circumstances upon which a modification would be granted. It is important to realize that while many of the reasons listed above may seem like valid reasons to modify the child support obligation, most of them would be invalid reasons alone to justify a modification. The most legally sufficient example for a modification, of the examples provided, would be that there has been a change in either party’s financial ability to support the child.

Fla. Statute 61. 30 (1) (b) provides a bit of insight into what constitutes a substantial change in circumstances to warrant a modification of child support. The statute explains that “… a substantial change in circumstances upon which a modification of an existing order may be granted. However, the difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines shall be at least 15 percent or $50.00, whichever amount is greater, before the court may find the guidelines provide a substantial change in circumstances.” A substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification comes in various forms. However, it is essential to recalculate the child support amount based on the changed circumstances and determine if the case has validity for a modification at the outset of the case. A change in either party’s income, a change in timesharing, changes with healthcare, and retirement are all on their face changes in circumstances, but the changes must cause a shift to the child support obligation beyond 15% of the current child support award or $50.00, whichever is greater. When parties earning a higher combined monthly gross income the child support guidelines, typically, do not adjust downward or upward as easily as they do when parties have a lower combined monthly gross income. For example, for a family with a combined parental income of $20,000 if one party began receiving an additional $4,000 a month, based on a variety of other factors daycare costs, health insurance, timesharing, etc., that increase in income may not constitute a “substantial change in circumstances” to a degree of 15% of the current child support obligation. Whereas, a family with an original combined income of $6,000 a party who receives an additional $1,000 a month, is a more likely circumstance to cause the child support guidelines to shift to the degree of $50.00 or 15%, whichever is greater. The reason circumstances like this occur, is because the needs of a child, under the Child Support Guidelines, eventually reaches a cap. The cap is based on the statutory standard needs of a child. While the Child Support Guidelines offer a wonderful resource for setting minimums for child support amounts, these amounts can be deviated from based on the circumstances and following a motion by one of the parties.

If you are contemplating requesting a modification of your current Child Support award or obligation contact Autumn Warner of Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. help you determine if your case would support an upward or downward modification of child support.

 

As a Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney, I often get questions from clients as to where their case should be handled if two parents and/or spouses live in two different cities. The question is one that does not always have an easy answer, as there are Florida family law rules governing, Florida statutes establishing the correct place to file a case, and there is also Florida case law that is down from the courts on the subject. Therefore, like many things in family law matters, it depends on the circumstances. To best answer this question, examples can be quite useful.

Example 1: Marie and Hank are married and spend the bulk of their marriage in Jacksonville, Florida where they purchase a home. After eight years of marriage, Marie and Hank decide to separate and Hank takes a job in Atlanta, Georgia. After a year of separation they would like to get a divorce realizing that reconciling is not an option.

Even though Hank is now a resident of Georgia and could technically file for divorce in Georgia, there is an issue of Georgia having control over the property of the marital home. Therefore, in order to make the divorce as clean as possible, Marie and Hank would most likely need to file for divorce in Jacksonville, Florida where the marital home is located. If they decide to file in Georgia, then Marie and/or Hank may have to take extra steps to enforce any court orders regarding the marital home.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney

641084_money.jpgAs a Jacksonville, Florida divorce and family law attorney I often have clients that are going through a divorce or paternity case with children. In handling such cases, I believe it is important to educate my clients on child support; it’s use and how it is calculated in Florida. Child support is not simply a magic number than a judge or attorney comes up with, but a guideline calculation based on Florida Statute 61.30. The first step in determining child support is to know the incomes of both parents. The child support calculation is based on the monthly income available to each parent.

In order to calculate guideline child support it is important to know what “income” actually is. While some people work for a company and earn an hourly wage, others work on a salary, while others may work on commission or have their own business. So, how does Florida define income for purposes of calculating child support? Florida Statute 61.30(2)(a) provides a list of what gross income is, but does not limit the income to the following:

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney

788179_brothers_and_sisters.jpgTerminating a parent’s parental rights in Florida is not easy. As a Jacksonville family lawyer I often have clients that are frustrated because one parent has continuously failed to pay child support. The parent may have hired the Florida Department of Revenue to find the parent, but been unsuccessful in getting result. The parent who is responsible for the child the majority of the time often grows tired of always having to track down the “deadbeat parent”. However, Florida laws protect parents’ rights and want to make certain that the children’s best interests are looked after.

Under Florida law, nonpayment of child support is not enough to show abandonment of a child. A parent cannot seek to terminate another’s rights simply because child support has not been paid. Also, a parent cannot deny the other time-sharing (i.e. visitation) with the children simply because child support has gone unpaid. Child support and time with your child are two very different things and the Florida courts treat them as such.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1385312_ten-fifty-four.jpgIn Florida, child support is an issue that often arises when parents separate. Parents that go from living in a home together and share expenses regarding the home and child often have financial concerns when their relationship does not work out. As a Jacksonville family law attorney, I handle cases involving divorce, paternity, child support, and the like. In the representation of my clients over the years I have seen more emotional concern over the parties’ financial situation than anything else. I attribute this to the fact that parents want what is best for their children and when financial means are threatened, my clients feel that there is inadequacy in their parenting. What then occurs is clients often want to have child support established sooner rather than later in order to continue to provide for the child.

In cases involving paternity establishment or divorce, the parents often want to understand how they will afford living on their own. The question most commonly asked when there are children involved is, “What can I expect to get in child support.” The reason is not because the mother or father wants to take money from the other parent, but because she/he knows that the money will be helpful to providing food, shelter, transportation and all other needs of the child and that she/he may not be able to afford those things on his/her own. When I represent the parent that is not fighting for time-sharing (e.g. visitation) with the child, then I normally explain to him/her the fact that child support is meant to provide for all needs of the child as if the parents were still residing in the same household.

In a two-income home, the child is allotted the benefits of living in what both parents can afford, and child support is designed to help keep that feeling of stability for the child. In divorce and paternity establishment cases, when the parents decide to separate and child support and time-sharing are issues, then I will try to work something out sooner rather than later regarding child support since it is a guideline calculation based. If we cannot reach an agreement without court action, then it may be necessary to file Motion for Temporary Needs.

A Motion for Temporary Needs is just that, it is a request made upon the court to establish a temporary time-sharing plan and award child support until such time that the divorce or paternity case is final. In cases where time-sharing is an issue, the case may take a long period of time and the majority time-sharing parent normally needs support between the opening and closing of the case. While many people feel that the outcome will be the same in the temporary needs hearing as in the final trial that is not always the case. The temporary hearing allows for some testimony, but will probably not factor into account any social investigations, parenting coordination, and the like that may come about as the case progresses. Therefore, the temporary needs hearing is designed to take a snapshot and make a determination based on the best interest of the child in the midst of further court actions.

The non-paying parent may accumulate arrearages in child support unless child support is paid in a timely manner. The benefit is not only to determine child support for the majority time-sharing parent, but it also helps decrease arrearages to be assessed in the final hearing. If a parent is not paying child support, then the lack of payment may equal a lump sum that is owed once child support is established. In Florida, the requesting party can go back two (2) years from the date of filing for child support. Therefore, the sooner child support gets paid the less will be owed in the future.

You should speak with an experienced family law attorney to better understand your rights and options when dealing with a child support case.

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Written by: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law

754431_in_business.jpgRecent changes in Florida family law have made it easier to handle child support modifications upon the 18th birthday or graduation date of a child. Previously, in a Florida divorce or other child support case (e.g. paternity cases) when child support was ordered it would go on forever unless one of the parties modified or terminated the child support order with the courts. Now, Florida law allows for the child support to be terminated without new for further court action or intervention.

Child support is based on the number of children, income of the parties and other related issues such as daycare, health insurance, etc. The prior law calculated child support for all children and did not allow for automatic changes based on the age and/or graduation date of the child. For example, Martha and Dave have two children, Carl, 7 and Carla, 17. Child support ordered for both children and was stated to terminate on Carla’s graduation date, June 2010. Carla graduated from high school but neither Martha nor Dave modified the child support and Dave still had the full amount of child support deducted from his paycheck. Dave later tried to modify to decrease child support to pay for only Carl and asked to be reimbursed for overpayment. While his child support was reduced, he was not able to get reimbursed for overpayment because it was looked at as a gift to Carl and/or Carla.

865417_rejected.jpgIn Florida, a failure to pay child support or alimony can result in the loss or suspension of a professional license. If a party fails to pay the ordered support, then the party in need of said support may file a petition with the court to suspend the license of the responsible party. The Florida Statute regarding such a petition requires that all other recourses be used before filing for the suspension of a license. The statute also gives provisions that must be followed before the petition can actually filed with the court. As a Jacksonville divorce and child support lawyer, I can vouch for the importance of following statutory requirements because of the statutory requirements are not followed, then the court may throw out the action all together.

Before filing a petition for the suspension or denial of a professional license, Florida Statute 61.13015, you must first send notice to the responsible party that she/he has 30 days to pay the delinquent support obligation or enter into an agreement for payments to be made regarding the delinquency. The responsible party is required to reach out the requesting party to establish such payments and to provide proof that such payments have been made.

If there is no response from the first notice, then the requesting party must send a second notice to the obligated party that states the amount owed and that she/he has 30 days to pay the delinquency or to set-up a payment arrangement to pay the amount owed. If an arrangement is made, then it should be reduced to writing and formalized with the signatures of the parties. The party responsible for the support should provide proof that the first payment has been made.