Articles Posted in Child Support

Copurt-Order-300x242Dissolving your marriage in the State of Florida , in many cases, is a lengthy process.   Issues of property division and child timesharing cause couples to have conflicts without a great deal of guidance when they are attempting to finalize their plans moving forward. If you are divorcing in Florida, and specifically in the Jacksonville area, courts enter a standing family law order, once a divorce is filed with the clerk of court. This order provides some guidance on how couples should conduct themselves during the pendency of a divorce.

First, these orders prohibit one spouse from selling or hiding property, owned either individually or as a couple.   This order will typically hold off a spouse from cleaning out the bank accounts, selling off personal or real property, or hiding assets that ultimately need to be divided in the divorce. One tip that is essential to moving forward is to take a copy of this order to your bank upon receiving it, so that your financial institution is aware of the current status of your marriage, and protections can be put in place for your money.

One exception to this provision to the taking of assets is when a spouse needs to sell an asset for usual household expenses or attorney’s fees. In these cases, your spouse may be able to sell an asset without your consent in order to make financial obligations. This is another area that may cause continuing conflict, and could be avoided through communication or representation by an experienced family law attorney.

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The short answer, yes, this happens all of the time and you should get a Florida Family Law attorney to review the documents and represent you to protect your legal rights. In Florida, historically, when a parent is looking to collect child support from another parent, they go to court, the judge determines whether the man is the father, they create a child support amount, and everyone carries on from that point.  Another procedure has been getting more popular in recent years, however, and it is called the administrative establishment of child support.

The Department of Revenue is the state agency that works with custodial parents to collect child support, both from citizens who are in need of legal help for a small fee and also from citizens who receive public assistance for their children.   The law allows the Department of Revenue to either use circuit courthouse to establish child support, or to use the administrative process.  In the administrative process, parents are sent a letter that the Department of Revenue has started a case against them, and gives the parents twenty days to respond. Unlike the procedure in circuit court, no one comes out to serve the paperwork, they just receive a certified letter in the mail.  It is assumed that if a person receives a letter, or a letter is signed for by a household member that the mail will be read by the addressed person.

This may not always be true, and can result in a child support order being entered against you, without going to court. If the parent does not respond, then the procedure moves forward, and with or without the involvement of the other parent, child support will be established, and will be a court order with the same effect of one that you would get from the courthouse.  So, it would be possible for a person to have a child support, and not know it if they did not open the letter that they received from the Department of Revenue.  This can have huge effects on the paying spouse, because if they are not aware of it, and their case does not have an income deduction order, then obviously, the Department of Revenue can seek to suspend their driver’s license, or any other method to make someone pay their child support.   Not only that, but if a parent wishes to have a DNA test or has a question whether they are the father or not, that issue can be addressed in the administrative process but only if the parent takes the necessary steps to participate.

Military-Service-300x211In the State of Florida, one of the most unique issues in a military divorce is the calculation of alimony and child support based on the income of the parties.  When one spouse is OR both spouses are employed as service members, it is important to recognize that aspects of income, some not even taxable by the IRS, will be considered income when it comes to providing for your children and former spouse after a Florida Dissolution of Marriage.

Calculating income for a Florida military divorce or paternity action creates special issues, because of the differences in how service members are compensated as compared to the civilian workforce.  Most of the pay information is found on the Leave and Earning Statement, which details how much you (or your partner) earns, their rank, years of service, but also any deductions. In every day terms, this is essentially the equivalent to your pay stub.

When considering what is inclusive income, a Florida court will consider the service member’s pay first. Thus, the basic pay, hazard pay, combat pay, and flight pay will definitely be considered in the calculation of the available income. These forms of pay are usually taxable, therefore it should come as no surprise that they are income.  Military families need to also include the allowances that decrease a service member’s cost of living, such as housing allowances (BAH), disability pay, subsistence allowance (BAS), per diem payments, and cost of living adjustments (COLA). These “allowances” not only decrease the daily living expenses of the military spouse, but also act as an increase in their income, and become a complicated issue for family law judges to determine when considering child support calculations. These additions are usually considered to be income, as they are cash benefits which ultimately would be considered components of gross income when calculating child support of the families’ children.

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  Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. to 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.