Articles Posted in Child Support

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.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

952313_gavel.jpgIn Florida, when the court enters an order regarding a divorce, child support, paternity, or other matter, then the court is telling the parties what they must do. If one of the parties is not doing what was previously ordered by the court, then the other party may file a Motion for Contempt, which means that she/he is asking the court to hold the offending party in contempt of court. Contempt of court basically means that a party has willfully and voluntarily not complied with the court’s orders. So, a motion for contempt is a way for the court to enforce the prior orders by punishing the offending party if she/he is held in contempt.

How does this work? If Mary and Frank have a paternity case and the judge entered an order that Frank will pay Mary $500 per month in child support, then Frank must pay $500 per month in child support. If Frank has a job and an ability to pay $500 per month and he chooses not to pay, then Mary may file a Motion for Contempt action against Frank. Mary would state in the motion what the prior order required and what Frank has not done. If Mary paid an attorney to file the action, then she may ask that Frank also pay for her lawyer fees since his actions are the only reason she had to hire a lawyer. Mary may also state that since Frank is voluntarily not paying child support that he should be put in jail.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1388609_real_estate_concept_2.jpgAs a family lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida, I handle cases involving child support. Often when I meet with clients they are concerned not only about the visitation they will have, but also whether they will be required to pay child support. The next thing clients want to know is how much the child support will be. While I understand the financial concerns regarding child support, I try to also educate clients on what child support is meant to provide for the child. Basically, in Florida, child support is designed to help maintain a lifestyle for the child that is similar to that which she or he would have if the parents remained in the same household. So, what is considered in determining Florida Child Support?

First, Florida Statute 61.30 regards child support as a necessity for the child, which cannot be negotiated away. Since the benefit is for the child and not the parent, the parents are not supposed to negotiate the right to child support. The idea is that the child is not able to make such a determination and the parents’ role is to protect the child and look out for his or her best interests. In so doing, Florida believes that determining child support and paying child support is vital to properly caring for the child.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

First, the Florida legislature changed child custody to “primary timesharing parent” in October, 2008. However, since most of us are familiar with child custody and custody issues, this article will still address the issue as the historic term, “custody.”
As a Jacksonville Florida family law and divorce attorney, dealing with paternity cases and divorces with children, custody issues often arise and the Social Evaluation is an important factor in helping the parents better understand the issues facing the children, and the evaluation assists the judge in having a better understanding and comprehension of what is in the best interest of the children. In Jacksonville and throughout Florida, the social investigation is a component of the case that may be used in its entirety by the judge or may give the judge a basis for a particular ruling. In addition, the evaluation can provide the parties with a stepping-stone or format by which to reach an agreement regarding visitation issues.

The social investigation is conducted by a professional, usually someone with a psychology and law background, and the investigator actually interviews the parents, speaks with witnesses, talks to the kids, look at school records, etc. Once the reviews and statements are completed, the evaluator writes a comprehensive report to demonstrate the findings for each parent, child, and the overall assessment of a parenting plan and recommendations for the court regarding any other matters that should be addressed (i.e. whether counseling is recommended, communication issues, etc.).

So how do you present well in the social investigation? Basically, parties are often concerned that they need to present themselves in a certain light to impress the investigator. However, most of the individuals handing these matters can tell when a party is putting on a show. The idea is not to be fake or phony, but to present your concerns for the children, explain your relationship with the children, and truly identify your wants and needs and the children’s wants and needs before the interview. Being genuine with the investigator is beneficial because it allows the investigator to truly determine any family issues that may need to be addressed, the impact the divorce/separation is actually having on the children and the like. The reason for the investigation is not to berate the parents, but to simply identify what may be in the best interest of the children in the present and in the future.

Extend a mental olive branch to the other party. During your interview with the evaluator, do not destroy the other parent with disparaging remarks. Describe the parts of parenting that the other parent does well and be honest in your comments about the children’s relationship with their other parent. Then share the things that do concern you about the other party, or about the separation of the children. You do not have to make it sound like everyone is great, you’re getting divorced there were issues in the home, so being real about the situation can be helpful in reaching the right conclusion for your case.

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Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1287061_businessman_in_the_office_1.jpgIn Jacksonville and throughout Florida, child support is dictated by a statutory guideline calculation. The calculation takes the income of both parents, gives credit to the parent responsible for paying for the child’s health insurance and daycare and the overnight time-sharing schedule. The calculation is meant to put the child in the same position she or he would have been in had the parents lived in the same household. However, since it is based on incomes, what happens if one of the parents doesn’t work or a parent voluntarily quits his or her job to avoid paying child support?

In Florida, income may be imputed, meaning established without actual pay, if the parent is found by the court to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. For example, if it can be shown that the parent has a medical degree, but is a cashier at a grocery store, then the court may conclude that the parent is voluntarily underemployed from his or her skill set. This is especially valid if the parent has been working as a doctor during the marriage, and upon divorce decided to work as a cashier. If the court determines that the parent is underemployed voluntarily, then the court may impute income to the parent equal to that of recent work history, qualifications, and the earning level for someone in a comparable position in the community.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

667996_porquet_guardiola.jpgChild support is often a topic in my divorce and paternity case appointments I have as a family law attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. As a divorce and family law attorney, I meet with clients to explain their rights and options and what are provided for under Florida law. Child support is a hot topic for many, especially when they are divorcing and there have previously been talks of college and how to pay for it. In Florida, child support is ruled by Statutes, which establish how to calculate child support and for how long child support must be paid.

During a marriage, it is common for spouses to discuss their children’s future as it relates to school and continuing on to college. College is an expense that many parents are concerned about, and rightfully so. As more kids decide to go to college due to the necessity of having a degree to find a job, parents think more about how they will pay for the rising cost of tuition and living expenses. However, when the parents decide to divorce, they now consider child support to get the kid through high school and wonder how it will impact the child’s ability to attend college.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1319861_children_crossing.jpgFlorida child support is calculated based on child support guidelines established by statute. In Florida, child support is based on the combined income of the parties and their pro rata (apportioned rate) that they each contribute. The calculation allows for credits to be given the to the parent that pays child’s insurance and daycare expenses. As a Jacksonville family lawyer, I often explain to clients that child support is based on their relative incomes because the child is entitled to live as if the parents were under the same roof. However, once child support is established, the court can enforce any back-owed child support up to two years from the date of the original filing of a petition for support. In that situation, the court can actually establish arrearage that must be paid back, sometimes at a minimal rate.

Recently, there was an appeal regarding whether child support arrearage can have an interest rate attached to it and if there can be a change to how it is paid back, since often it is at $20 per month. The Florida appellate court laid out the following guidelines for establishing interest and payments:

1340700_playground_climbing_area.jpgChild support in Florida cases is based on the income of the parties and the total income of a shared household. The pro rata share of each party’s income is a determining factor in the overall calculation of child support. As a Jacksonville lawyer handling child support cases, I try to educate my clients on what child support is meant to provide, including a roof over the child’s head, electricity and water for the child, gas in the car to transport the child, etc. A factor in the determination of child support is time-sharing or visitation exercised by the parties. In Florida, there is an automatic calculation of time-sharing at 20% of the time and anything over that amount may be a factor in reducing the amount of child support. In addition, the Florida child support guidelines provide credits for multiple items, including but not limited, daycare expenses and health insurance. In determining the income of the parties, the Florida Statute allows for the income of the parties to be determined based on taxable and nontaxable income, so if a party is in the military that party’s BAH and BAS pay will be considered income.

Florida family law cases are often required to go to mediation to determine child support, time-sharing (e.g. visitation or custody pre 2008), and the like. A mediated agreement is an agreement between the parties regarding all aspects of the case and it is reduced to writing and entered as an order with the court. However, if the parties do not have a time-sharing plan that is ultimately formalized into writing and entered by the court, then child support may be impacted. For example, if the case ONLY involves child support, such as cases brought by the Florida State Department of Revenue, then child support will be calculated without a time-sharing plan.

Sometimes, parents decide that they do no need to go to court to establish a time-sharing plan because they already have a verbal agreement and there are no visitation issues associated with their case. As such, the parties may allow the court to determine child support without actually entering a true time-sharing plan with the court. However, in 2011 the 1st District Court of Appeals in Florida made it clear that child support calculations may only defer from the usual 20% time-sharing credit IF the time-sharing plan is reduced to writing and entered as a time-sharing plan with the court. In the case before the appellate court, the parties had agreed to a verbal time-sharing plan where the nonresidential parent had the child 40% of the time. The appeals court found that unless the time-sharing plan was reduced to writing and approved by the court, then the 40% time-sharing that had been established by the parties could not reduce child support. Therefore, the paying party was required to pay more than would have been necessary had the time-sharing plan been entered with the court. DOR o/b/o Sherman v. Daly, 74 So.3d 165 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011).