FOR DIVORCING COUPLES with minor children, child support can be one of the most confusing and contentious issues. Clients frequently call with questions concerning child support and modification of child support orders. Hopefully, these will answer some of your basic questions. Of course, each case is different, and we at Ambrose Family Law are available to answer any specific questions you may have about your particular circumstances.
Q I do not agree with the way my ex-spouse parents, which is why we are getting a divorce. Do I still need to pay him or her child support?
A Yes, if the court orders you to pay child support, you must pay it. Florida law obligates both parents of minor children to pay child support. Child support is the right of the child, not the right of either parent. As a matter of public policy, Florida believes every child is entitled to food, clothing and shelter and that it is the responsibility of both of the child’s parents to provide for the child.
Q My spouse makes more money than I do. He/she will have to pay me child support, right?
A It depends. A child support obligation for each parent is calculated based on a formula devised by the state. The formula, basically, takes into account the net income of both parents, and particular expenses like healthcare premiums for the children and daycare costs, if any. It also considers the number of nights each child is anticipated to spend with each parent, according to the proposed time-sharing arrangement. Once all the figures are plugged into the formula (known as child support guidelines) and calculated, each parent will have a figure that they “owe” for child support. They then can come to an agreement as to how this obligation will be settled between them, or let the judge decide. However, child support cannot be “waived” by either parent.
Q We’ve been separated for several months and I’ve been completely supporting our child during that time. Can I get retroactive child support from my spouse for the time we’ve been separated but not divorced?
A You can petition the court for retroactive child support for up to 24 months prior to the date of filing of your request for child support.
Q I am struggling to pay child support because I’ve been downsized and no longer make the kind of money I used to make, what can I do?
A Child support modification is based on a showing of substantial, permanent and unanticipated change in circumstances. Certainly, during these difficult economic times, many people are experiencing job loss and downsizing. In many cases, it is taking several months, if not years, to find new employment. If you are no longer making the income you once made through no fault of your own, you can file a petition for modification of child support with the court, and reasonably expect a modification. Note, however, the court may impute income to a parent who simply refuses to work or who requests a decrease in child support while unemployed when they appear not to be seeking employment.
Q I want my spouse to help pay for our child’s college expenses or to pay child support until our child graduates from a four-year University. Can I make him/her do that?
A No. The law in Florida does not require parents to pay child support beyond the age of majority (18 years) or the date the child graduates from high school (unless the child is severely disabled). However, parents can agree to other arrangements.
For more information about our qualifications and experience, and answers to other questions you may have about child support, modification of child support orders, time-sharing, parenting plans and other issues related to divorce, please click here to contact Ambrose Family Law to schedule a no-obligation consultation.