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A Guide to Child Support in Florida

In Florida, both parents are legally obligated to financially support their minor child—even if they are no longer married to each other, or were never married in the first place.

Child support is meant to cover the cost of a child’s upbringing, as well as basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. It also allows the child to benefit and share in the wealth of both parents. Under Florida laws, the receipt of child support is intended to be a right of the child in question—not the parents.

How is Child Support Calculated?

Child support orders are based on a formula, which attempts to combine a number of factors in order to determine what constitutes a fair contribution for the child’s parents.

This equation factors in the net income of both parents, as well as specific expenses like health insurance premiums and daycare costs. Child support payments also factor in the amount of time that a child spends with each parent. This is meant to address the realistic daily financial needs of the child—if the parent with lesser time still spends a significant enough portion of time with the child, their payments may be adjusted to account for this.

The formula for calculating child support is complicated.

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Modification of Child Support

Though it can be a complicated process, child support can be modified at any time when substantial, permanent, and/or unexpected circumstances occur in a parent’s life.

Some examples of these changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Substantial increases or decreases in either parent’s income

  • A debilitating medical condition of either parent

  • A child completing or discontinuing daycare

  • The loss of a job

  • Substantial increase in certain expenses, like medical insurance or daycare

In general, a modification of child support is only applicable from the day the petition to modify child support is filed. For example, if one parent loses his or her job but waits for several months to file for a modification, they are still responsible for paying the normal amount of child support for the period of time between the job loss and the filing.

Enforcing Child Support Payments

There are a number of penalties you may face if you fail to make regular child support payments. Compared to many other states, the laws in Florida that enforce child support orders can be very strict.

Motion for Civil Contempt. “Civil contempt” is applied when a person fails to follow a court order. The custodial parent of a child can submit a Motion for Civil Contempt/Enforcement form, or contact an attorney for additional help filing this claim. If a judge finds one parent to be in contempt of a court order, he or she could face steep fines or even jail time.

Court Orders for the Collection of Child Support. Once a parent has been found in contempt of court-order child support, a judge has a number of tools at his or her disposal to ensure the collection of child support.

As stated above, this includes fines and/or jail time. Additionally, the judge may issue an order to withhold money from a parent’s paycheck, or federal or state tax refunds. A judge may also place liens on the delinquent parent’s property—including real property and vehicles—and force their sale.

If you are confronted with a child support-related issue, you should contact a knowledgeable family law attorney. Get in touch with us as soon as possible for experienced legal help at an affordable price.