Child Support in Jacksonville

Hello everyone and welcome back to our blog page!  I’d like to follow up on the last post about timesharing with some information about child support in Florida generally and the Jacksonville, FL specifically.   Child support is at issue in just about every case involving children.  In fact, child support is required by Florida law for the support of the children and cannot be waived by the parents.  Keep reading for more information about who should pay and how much is owed:

Who pays child support?

                Generally speaking, it is the parent with the greater income.   However, if the parent with the higher income has the children the majority of the time and/or pays substantial expenses for the benefit of the children such as daycare or health insurance, then in most cases the other parent will owe support or neither party will owe anything to the other.   It is possible for the majority parent to owe support to the non-majority parent, but this is a relatively rare occurrence.  The actual amount due is calculated using a statutory formula discussed below.

How is child support calculated?

Child support is calculated using an equation outlined in Florida Statute 61.30.  I won’t bore you with the particulars (click here if interested), especially since judges and lawyers all use a computer program to do the math (we did all go to law school for a reason).   The equation is based on the following variables:

  1. The monthly gross (pre-tax) income of each parent.
  2. The number of minor children.
  3. The number of overnights each parent receives.
  4. How much each parent pays for their own health insurance.
  5. If either parent covers the children on health insurance, then the cost of that coverage is factored in.
  6. The cost of day care, if applicable. Aside from the number of overnights, this factor increases child support more than just about anything else.  If one parent pays daycare, the other’s child support obligation will increase to pay their portion.
  7. Any mandatory retirement or union dues either party must pay to maintain employment.
  8. Child support either parent must pay to support children of another relationship.

Once the variables are either agreed upon or established by the Court, they are inputted into the calculator to establish the guideline support amount.  In most cases, this is what the payor (parent obligated to pay support) owes to the other parent.

Can child support be waived, reduced or increased from the guidelines?

Yes, but only in rare cases.  Courts can increase or decrease up to 5% without making specific findings.  To get a modification either upwards or downwards beyond 5%, the Court must find a compelling reason to do so.  Generally, this will occur if one of the children has a special need that would require additional financial support than contemplated by the guideline calculation.  It can also happen in cases where the income difference between the parents is so extraordinary that the child support owed grossly exceeds what would be required to support the child.  By law, child support cannot be waived.  However, in some cases, no support may be due if the parties have relatively equal time and incomes.

Can child support be modified?

Yes, child support is modifiable if circumstances change such that the guideline amount would change by 15% or $50.00.  Modifications do not happen on their own and require the parties to go back to Court.   Examples of where child support is likely to change include:

  • The parent receiving child support receives a substantial increase in income.
  • The minor children are no longer in daycare. Once day care goes away, child support should dramatically decrease.  Many people forget to go back to court once their young children reach school age and end up overpaying child support for years.
  • The parent paying child support begins receiving less income. Be careful here, however, as Courts will probably not reduce child support due to a temporary job loss or a voluntary reduction in income.  However, if the change is permanent and not due to the actions of the parent, a modification may be appropriate.
  • The parent paying support receives an increase in income.

Since modifications are not automatic, it is important that you see a lawyer right away should your situation change.  Modifications are only retroactive to the date of filing, NOT to the date of the change.  For instance, if your children are no longer in daycare after age six, but you wait until their sixteenth birthday to modify child support, you will not get a credit for any overpayment for the ten year period between the time they stopped going to day care and the date of the modification.

However, before filing for a modification, you must look at all the factors.  If, for instance, the children are no longer in daycare, but your income has significantly increased, you may not want to modify child support if your increased income offsets the loss of the daycare.  Therefore, it is always wise to run different scenarios with an attorney before requesting a modification.

My former spouse/co-parent does not work.  Do I have to support her even if he/she is not working?

You may owe a support obligation, but in most cases the Court will require both parties to work.  Gone are the days when one parent could stay home with the children.  If a parent has been out of the work force, a Court will impute income (determine that spouse’s earning potential) and use that number to calculate child support.  Only if the other parent is incapable of working, either because of a mental or physical infirmity or if the child requires full time care, will child support be calculated without requiring both parents to work.

When does child support end?

                    Generally, child support terminates either on the child’s 18th birthday or high school graduation, assuming the child will graduate before the age of 19.   The idea being that a senior in high school should still receive support between their 18th birthday and graduation.  However, if your child is behind in school, and will not graduate before their 19th birthday, or if they drop out, then support will end at 18.   Child support also terminates upon marriage (this rarely happens), when the child joins the armed forces, becomes emancipated or otherwise becomes self-supporting.

Child support WILL NOT continue through college.  This is not allowed in Florida.  If a child remains dependent, usually due to a mental or physical infirmity, child support may be extended beyond the age of 18.

Can I get retroactive child support?

                    Yes, if you are entitled to child support and are not receiving it, the Court allows for a parent, who has never had a child support obligation established, to receive up to 24 months of retroactive support.   If a child support obligation has already been established, but remains unpaid, you may receive retroactive support back to the date the other parent stopped paying, even if that period exceeds 24 months.

What happens if I don’t pay child support?

                    The law allows for several different remedies.  Parents who can pay, but choose not to, can be jailed until they pay a purge (an amount a judge determines the parent has the ability to pay for child support) to get out-of-jail.  In addition, your driver’s and/or professional license may be suspended, your income tax refund can be seized and your wages may be garnished.  If you cannot pay child support, apply for relief from the court as soon as you are unable to pay support.  You do not want to just ignore it.  The State of Florida Department of Revenue enforces child support.  Eventually, they will find you.

What do I do if I can’t pay?

                    If you cannot pay, then you need to ask for relief from the Court.  Remember, any modification is retroactive from the date of filing, so if you lose your job, make the Court aware of it.

If your job loss is temporary, you can file to abate your support.   This does not remove your obligation, but will allow you to miss payments for a period of time until you get back on your feet.  You will then pay additional funds per month, above the normal obligation, to make-up the missed payments.

Should you lose or job or take a pay cut, then you will need to file a Supplemental Petition to modify.  However, your support obligation will generally only be reduced if the income loss is outside of your control (ie: you get laid off) and you cannot get another job at the same income level somewhere else.

However, if you are having trouble making payments because you are spending too much money on your personal expenses, the Court will require you to budget and will not cut you a break on child support.

What do I do if I the other parent stopped paying support?

                    You will also want to seek relief from the Court.   If you hire an attorney, you may be able to recoup your attorney’s fees to enforce non-payment.  The Department of Revenue may also be able to assist.