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What is valid child support?

Child support often plays a serious part in family law litigation in Florida. Support must be used to offset some child-related costs so the parent with less income, or has custody for a longer period, can provide for the child's needs and keep a consistent standard of living for them.

Many children, unfortunately, go without support for their care. On the other hand, many parents who are ordered to pay support complain that support payments deducted from their pay makes it unreasonably difficult to pay their own expenses or that support is misused for the other parent's personal needs.

A Florida court may order either parent to pay child support during and after a divorce case in an equitable amount based on the specific circumstances of the case. Support should provide for the children's needs and to keep them safe and healthy. Child support may be appropriately used to provide a safe and decent residence for the child and may pay for general household costs and everyday expenses such as food, mortgage or rent payments and utilities. Expenses related to education such as school supplies, fees, clothing and field trips are another appropriate use.

Support may also be used for recreational activities and hobbies including sports, clubs, music lessons and extra-curricular activities. Support for furnishings, books, toys, food, clothing and other daily needs are also appropriate and even necessary. The same applies with medical expenses, dental care, eyeglasses and other health care costs. A parent's personal expenses are an invalid use. These include their clothing and salon services, vacations without the child, dining out without the child and other items excluded from child care such as liquor, tobacco and entertainment without the child.

Parents should review their parenting agreement to clearly set forth each parent's responsibilities and other support obligations. For example, parents should determine whether carrying medical insurance may count as child support. However, child support does not excuse a parent from paying for other child-related expenses in the plan. A parent should never withhold support as punishment, for suspicion of its misuse, or when access to the child is denied. Parents should document violations and seek court intervention.

An attorney may assist parents with a reasonable support plan that places the child's needs first. Lawyers may also obtain modifications and support orders when needed.

Source: DivorcedMoms.com, "This is what child support is...and is not," March 21, 2017

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