Child Support in Florida – Establishing and Enforcing

A crucial component of any divorce action is determining how much child support the primary custodial parent is entitled to receive from his/her ex-spouse. This money is essential to adequately support the child, and there are many factors a court takes into consideration when setting this amount.

Of course, many parents may ask a similar question; specifically, once child support is ordered, how is payment enforced and what can you do if your ex-spouse stops sending money? These issues will be discussed below to help you understand what the court needs to know to set the proper amount of support and how to respond if you encounter payment issues.

Factors Used to Establish Child Support Payments

The basic information a court considers when establishing how much child support a parent should pay is:

  • The monthly income of both parents
  • The health and child care needs for the child
  • The standard needs of a child based on age

Income includes much more than wages or salaries earned. The court will also include monies from sources like:

  • Disability and Social Security benefits
  • Rental income
  • Workers’ compensation benefits & settlements
  • Spousal support from a previous marriage
  • Pension payments

Further, if you are under-or voluntarily unemployed, the court will base the child support amount on your probable, not actual, income, looking at recent work history and qualifications. There are some expenses the court will deduct from its calculation, including income tax deductions, health insurance payments, and required retirement contributions.

The court then takes monthly income and subtracts allowable deductions to arrive at net income, which is then plugged into a child support guideline table that lists minimum amounts of child support based on the combined monthly net incomes of the parents against the age and number of children. The court has the authority to deviate from the listed minimum child support by 5% in either direction at its discretion. Any deviation greater than 5% is permitted only if the court finds that ordering the amount listed in the guidelines would be “unjust or inappropriate.” Typically, each parent is responsible for a portion of the child support based on their net income and the amount of time the child is under a particular parent’s care.

Child Support Enforcement

In order for a parent to enforce child support payments, the parent must first have a written order from the court stating child support is required. The Florida Department of Revenue’s Child Support Enforcement Program is charged with managing and distributing court-ordered child support payments. All child support payments a parent is legally obligated to make should go through this department so the state knows the obligated parent is up to date. If a parent fails to make child support payments on time, the Child Support Enforcement Program has the authority to take steps to enforce the payment, and you can request such services at no cost. Some of the options it has available to ensure back payments are received include garnishing wages, suspending a driver’s license, seizing federal tax returns, and placing liens against personal property owned by the parent in arrears.

However, it is important to note that all the enforcement options listed to collect back child support require legal knowledge and time. The Child Support Enforcement Program has thousands of cases and is not able to work quickly to collect child support. Further, the parent will never see the lawyer appointed by the Enforcement Program, preventing the parent from potentially providing information to advance collection efforts more efficiently.

If you need assistance with child support in Florida, call our attorneys today. The Fort Lauderdale firm of Stok Kon + Braverman has extensive experience with child support issues and will work to obtain the money you need to support your family.