Written by: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law
Recent 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.
Now, Florida law allows for the child support to be automatically reduced once the child either turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. For example, the order for child support or Carla and Carl would now say child support is ordered in the amount of “x” for both children. Beginning July 1, following Carla’s graduation of June, child support will be paid in the amount of “y” for the remaining child. Also, once Carl turns 18 or graduates high school, Dave will automatically no longer owe child support. If Dave’s child support is being garnished from his wages, then his employer most likely set-up automatic cut-off dates for payroll purposes. However, if the employer continues to take funds from Dave’s paycheck, then Dave may be able to get reimbursed by his employer. This however, also means that Martha most likely received the money so it may messier than necessary to obtain said funds. What Dave should do, prior to Carl’s graduation, is confirm with his employer that they do have it set-up to stop garnishing his wages at the appropriate time.
All of these factors and dates are now placed in an order for child support. Also, if child support is paid by garnishment of wages, then an income deduction or income withholding order is entered with the court and provided to the paying party’s employer. That order now also has the date that child support will stop so it should automatically be set-up with payroll not to be secured after the dates specified.
If you have a child support case in Florida, you should make certain that you understand your rights and options. Speaking with an experienced family law attorney or divorce lawyer can be beneficial to you during your case.