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How does Florida child support work?

Florida's parents often rely on child support payments to pay for their children's everyday expenses. Parents should be aware of the provisions to assure that family law courts issue or approve a fair order.

Courts issue a child support order mandating the amount that a parent will pay for housing, feeding and the child's care. Normally, parents will share medical expenses and prescription drug costs. Non-parents may receive support but courts may only order the child's parents to pay it.

A parent may seek a support order by filing for divorce or dissolution of marriage. A parent may also seek this support without filing for divorce. An unmarried parent will have to file a paternity action for support.

The amount of support is based on the number of children, both parents' income, and the amount paid for daycare, insurance, education, medical care and other child care expenses. Support may be recalculated every few years or when a major change impacts income such as a job change. However, losing a job does not change support obligations unless a court issues a modification order.

Courts can issue an order making a parent pay delinquent support even if the child is over 18 years-old. Florida can also suspend a non-paying parent's driver's license, seize lottery winnings and tax refunds, take money from bank accounts and make reports to credit agencies. A judge may force a parent to sell a car or real estate for delinquent payments or hold the parent in contempt.

A parent cannot withhold visitation privileges for the other parent's non-payment. This could subject this parent to sanctions for violating a visitation or custody agreement.

A support order may be modified if there is a substantial change in a parent's circumstances since the order was issued. These are changes that impact the ability to pay such as a job loss, being unable to work or increased expenses from an illness. An order may be modified if the children move in with the parent who is paying support.

An attorney can help a parent seek an order that is fair and reasonable and takes care of the children's expenses. A lawyer can also assist with the often lengthy and complication enforcement process.

Source: FloridaLawHelp.org, "Child support," Accessed April 24, 2017

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