During the divorce process, one parent is usually ordered to pay child support. But how is this determined? And what do you do if your ex-spouse stops paying child support? The child support and divorce attorneys at the Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm draw upon decades of combined experience in South Florida to guide our clients through complicated child support matters. Discover the answers to these questions, and some of our clients’ most common child support questions, below.
How Do Florida Courts Determine Child Support?
Florida courts will consider various factors before validating a child support agreement or issuing a court order when determining child support. Some of the factors that determine the amount of monthly child support payments include:
- Individual and combined net incomes of the parents
- Time each parent spends with the child
- Number of children
- Costs of schooling, babysitting, and daycare
- Medical, dental, and other health-related costs
Like most states, Florida employs an Income Shares Model to determine how much child support a parent will pay each month. An experienced child support lawyer can offer a reasonable estimate of what you can expect to pay under a court order.
Under the Income Shares Model, the court will:
- Ascertain the combined income of the parents
- Determine the total amount of basic monthly child support based on a statutory schedule
- Add required amounts for health and dental insurance, uncovered medical and dental expenses, and amounts necessary for childcare for the parents to maintain employment.
- Specify a parent’s child support obligation based on their percent of contribution to the combined net incomes.
How Long Does Florida Require Parents to Support Their Children?
Generally, Florida requires parents to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18, unless the child is on track to obtain a high school diploma prior to reaching the age of 19, in which case the support would run until high school graduation. However, a parent may need to indefinitely remit monthly child support payments if the child suffers from a debilitating mental or physical injury or illness and the condition is recognized in a divorce or paternity matter prior to the child reaching the age of majority. There are other exceptions to the general rule on child support that this article will not address.
My Spouse Has Stopped Paying Child Support. What Can I Do?
If you stop receiving your monthly child support payments, you should first call a qualified divorce lawyer. At Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm, we can file a special motion with the court to reopen your child support case to ascertain the previous child support order and submit a detailed accounting of all completed and missed child support payments.
Child support is taken very seriously in family courts. If your ex-spouse fails to make payments, the court may:
- Seize their property
- Garnish their wages
- Suspend their driver’s license
Call us at Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm as soon as you fail to receive a child support payment to avoid losing your rights. However, you should continue to permit visitation so that you can remain free of any wrongdoing before you approach the courts.
How Do I Get a Modification of Child Support Payments?
Once the court enters a child support order, serious penalties will be incurred if the child support is not paid consistently. It is important that you do not adjust your payments due under a child support order simply because you are experiencing a change in circumstances. This is called “engaging in self-help,” which is frowned upon by the courts. Even if you reach an informal agreement with the other parent, they can still enforce the arrearage against you. Our child support attorneys can assist you by filing a request for modification with the court. Still, you must continue paying the court-ordered amount until the modification request is approved. Therefore, filing a request with the court is the necessary first step.
Recipients of child support may also file a modification request with the court for a substantial change in circumstances, such as special needs of the child, extended illness, disability, or unemployment, to request a recalculation of the child support order.
If you need to modify child support in Florida, make sure you have the support and guidance of a child support attorney. Before a court modifies an existing child support order, it must find that the substantial change in circumstances is:
- Permanent; or
Significant Change in Circumstances
There could be a significant change to the income of either party. For example, if the parent paying child support loses their job or declares bankruptcy, this would be considered significant and would impact that parent’s ability to continue making payments. The same is true if the parent receiving child support loses their job, representing a significant loss of income for child care. A judge may also order a reduction in child support if the receiving parent’s income has increased significantly due to a job promotion, a new job, or earnings from a business investment.
Permanent Change in Circumstances
The petitioning party must show that a change in circumstances has existed for at least six months for a court to see it as permanent. However, some changes could be taken at face value, such as severe, debilitating injuries or incurable diseases. Finding yourself out of work for six months will not qualify as permanent if the possibility of securing a new job exists.
Involuntary Change in Circumstances
When the reason for the requested decrease is due to a voluntary action of the parent obligated to pay support, Florida courts will not order a modification of child support. A change in circumstances must be involuntary. If the petitioner brought about the change in circumstances, the court would not modify the order for child support. Examples of voluntary changes in circumstances include:
- Acceptance of a job with lower pay
- Intentional infliction of an injury or disease upon oneself
Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm: Child Support Attorneys in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties
If you need assistance with child support issues in Florida, the child support lawyers at Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm are passionate about helping people protect their children and assets during divorce and other family law matters. Life’s too short to be in the wrong relationship. Call us at (954) 447-2580 or complete our online form today to schedule your confidential consultation. At Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm, we settle where we can. Fight when we must. We have offices in Pembroke Pines, Weston, and Sunny Isles Beach, Florida.
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