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Child Support

Lakeland Family Law Attorneys | Auburndale FL Divorce Lawyers

Child support is typically independent of other issues in a divorce, fixed by a formula established by divorce laws in your state. In some states, the standard child support calculation is based only on the income of the paying spouse. The child support guidelines established by each state may take into account:

  • Needs of the child
  • Ability of the noncustodial parent to support him or herself
  • Standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the family stayed together
  • Child support obligations for children from previous marriages
  • Extraordinary living expenses
  • College child support
  • Other relevant factors

Penalties For Refusing To Pay Child Support

In most states, child support orders are subject to automatic garnishment. As long as the noncustodial parent remains in the same job, non-payment does not become an issue.

A couple may divorce before garnishment orders were entered or may have divorced in a jurisdiction that doesn't enforce automatic wage garnishment. The paying spouse may have changed jobs or become unemployed. In such cases, the custodial parent typically has private recourse or can ask child support enforcement agencies to pursue unpaid child support.

If you don't pay child support, you may go to jail for contempt of court for violating the divorce decree or temporary support order. In many states, a seriously delinquent parent may also be charged with criminal non-support of a dependent. Governmental agencies charged with child support enforcement have a variety of other enforcement techniques, including suspending the non-paying parent's driver's license, revoking of any professional licenses or seizing income tax refunds.

Modifying Child Support

If there are legitimate reasons behind your inability to pay child support, you can petition the court to modify child support. A custodial parent can petition the court to modify the child support if circumstances warrant an increase in payments. Grounds to modify child support may include:

  • Significant reduction in income
  • Serious illness or disability
  • Change in child's circumstances
  • Change in the financial circumstances of the custodial parent
  • Many states also set statutory limits on how often child support can be modified

Child Support Factors

Every state has established child support guidelines that help determine child support payments after divorce. Both parents' obligation to support the children, needs of the child and each parent's ability to pay are taken into account when making child support agreements. The Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 dictates that child support payments should be based upon parents' current income including wages, welfare benefits and income from assets such as stocks and bonds.

Primary Child Support Factors

Primary factors generally considered when issuing child support:

  • Parents' income
  • Time spent with the child
  • Health insurance and medical expenses
  • Child care costs
  • Educational expenses
  • Additional Child Support Factors

Divorce courts may deviate from the state child support guidelines in some cases. Some special factors that may warrant an adjustment in child support include:

  • Existing child support orders for other children
  • Extraordinary medical expenses
  • The child's standard of living prior to the divorce
  • Unusual living expenses of the custodial parent
  • Incomes above what the guidelines cover
  • Child's financial resources
  • Extremely adverse economic circumstances
  • Travel expenses for visitation

Child Support Modifications

It's possible to modify child support if a change of circumstances has occurred. Parents may agree to modify child support or allow the divorce court to determine what modification is needed. Factors that may warrant modifying child support include:

  • Increase or decrease in a parent's earnings or earning capacity
  • Change in child custody
  • Significant change in time each parent spends with the child
  • Change in the needs of the child
  • Parent disability

Under state child support laws, a child is generally entitled to be supported by both parents after divorce. If one parent has sole child custody, generally the noncustodial parent is ordered to pay child support. If the parents have joint child custody, the parent who the child lives with most of the time may be eligible to receive child support.

Child Support Guidelines

Most states have child support guidelines that calculate the amount of child support using a variety of factors, such as the time spent with the child, parents' income, childcare expenses and insurance costs. Child support may also be offset if there are significant travel expenses involved with child visitation.

Child support is calculated differently by each state's divorce court. Some states rely only on the noncustodial parent's income, while some combine the income of both parents to create a more complex child support formula. Many states account for additional factors when calculating child support: number of children, parental responsibilities to children from other marriages and custody arrangements.

Some states are starting to publish an electronic child support calculator, while some only provide manual worksheets. There are a few states that give you only the state statutes or child support guidelines, letting you figure it out.

Circumstances Affecting Child Support Eligibility

Paternity Disputes - If the paternity of a child is disputed, the biological father of a child may not be ordered to pay child support until the results of a paternity test are available and reviewed by the court.

Identity and Location of Biological Parent - Parents who can't locate or identify the other biological parent of a child may never receive child support, unless the missing parent is found and/or a paternity test is ordered by the court. If the identity of the parent is known but he or she cannot be located, the child support services agency in your state may provide assistance.

Child Support Orders - After a divorce court orders a parent to make child support payments, that parent may be held in contempt of court for not paying. In some cases, child support orders may be retroactive to the date the petition for child support was filed or the child's birth date.

Child Support Agreements

When parents divorce or separate, negotiating issues relating to child support through divorce mediation or with the assistance of divorce attorneys is an option. Once a child support agreement - including the amount, frequency and duration of payments - is put in writing, both parents must sign, or argue, the child support agreement. Then the child support agreement must be approved by the divorce courts.

In most states, child support is considered the right of a minor child. A custodial parent may not make an agreement to waive this right, unless the divorce court makes a specific finding to depart from the state child support guidelines. Before approving a child support agreement, the divorce court may question the parents to make sure the agreement is understood and wasn't signed under duress. If the court finds the child support agreement provides adequate support for the child and either follows the guidelines or demonstrates a valid reason not to, it can be made a court order.

Court Approval of Child Support Agreements

/In any state, if a divorce court finds that a child support agreement doesn't provide for the basic needs of a child, it may be rejected or modified by the court. After a child support agreement is approved and made a court order, a parent may be held in contempt of court and face sanctions if the agreement is violated.

Call Allen & Abaray, P.A.

For legal advice on child support issues call the divorce attorneys at Allen & Abaray, P.A. One of our experienced attorneys will be happy to answer all of your questions during a free consultation.

Child Support Guidelines: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0061/Sections/0061.30.html

Child Support Calculator: http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/childsupport/guidelines.html

 


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