Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
In 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.