Understanding Child Support
Updated: Aug 10
Supporting Your Child During Divorce
Florida law states that both parents are legally obligated to provide support for their minor child/children. Child support payment is considered a right of the child not the parent. The purpose of child support is to meet the the child’s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter, as well as to allow the child/children to share in the wealth and good fortune of their parents.
In a dissolution of marriage or paternity action, child support is calculated pursuant to guidelines set forth in the child support laws in Florida. The child support guidelines are also used for actions to modify the amount of child support.
How is the Amount of Child Support Established?
The amount of Child support is established based on the Florida Child Support Guidelines formula. The formula takes into consideration the net income of both parents, health insurance premiums being paid the parents and the daycare costs for the child/children. The formula also accounts for the number of over-nights the child/children spend with each parent. The Child Support “guidelines” are contained in Section 61.30, Florida Statutes.
The Florida Department of Revenue uses a calculator to determine the specific amount to child support to be paid by the parents. The Calculator can be found here.
When child support is initially determined, retroactive support may be established for the time period between the date the parents separated and the date that the child support order goes into effect. If the parties separated more than twenty-four months prior to the filing of the action requesting child support, retroactive support will generally be capped at twenty-four months. The law regarding retroactive Child Support is also found in Section 61.30, Florida Statutes.
Can the Amount of Child Support be Modified?
In Florida, Child Support can be modified at any time based upon a showing of a substantial, permanent and unanticipated change in circumstances. What constitutes a substantial change in circumstances includes but is not limited to, the loss of a job, the termination of the child’s attendance at daycare, the disability of a parent, an increase in the costs of health insurance or daycare, or a substantial increase or decrease (15% or greater) in either parent’s income.
Further, a permanent change is one that has lasted or is anticipated to last for one year or more. Generally, a modification can only be effective as of the date of filing of the action for modification. Therefore, any arrears that accrued due to non-payment of child support after the loss of a job but before the modification action was filed will remain due and owing. The law regarding modification is found in Section 61.13, Florida Statutes.
How is Child Support Enforced?
There are a number of ways to enforce child support. Including: contempt of court, suspension of the obligor’s driver’s license, and the placement of a lien on the obligor’s property. The Florida Department of Revenue has additional enforcement mechanisms including suspension of the obligor’s passport, and seizure of the obligor’s bank account.
The Clerk of Court can also will enter a judgment on the arrears that have accrued when child support is payable through the State Disbursement Unit. Once such a judgment is entered, interest begins to accrue. Therefore it is best to make child support payments in a timely manner whenever possible. There is no statute of limitations on the enforcement of child support and its arrears. Therefore, child support can be enforced after the children emancipate, and even against the estate of the obligor after the death of the obligor. The law regarding enforcement of Child Support is found in Section 61.13, Florida Statutes.