October 29, 2012
Article By: William Dorsey
Contact Us With Your Divorce and Custody Law Questions.
Child support is intended to allow children to receive sufficient financial support to meet their basic living needs, such as food, clothing, shelter and healthcare, and to enjoy the wealth of both of their parents. The public policy in Florida strongly prioritizes children’s receipt of financial support from both parents. For that reason, Florida law has strict guidelines regarding child support, and takes a stern approach to nonpayment of child support.
In Florida, the amount of child support is set by following a mathematical formula that factors in both parents’ incomes and certain expenses (such as healthcare insurance premiums and daycare payments.) Beyond just incomes and expenses, though, the formula also looks at the living situation of the children. If the non-primary custodial parent has the child overnight at least 20 percent of the time, that will trigger a reduction in the amount of child support.
A parent with a court-ordered support obligation may not alter or cease those payments absent a court order that permits the change. Florida law considers your child’s needs to be paramount, meaning that your ex’s obligation to support his or her child comes first. Even if your spouse has encountered financial hardship, whether from large new financial obligations (i.e. a major illness or accident,) a severe reduction of income (a job loss,) or the child’s living situation changes (the child begins living primarily with your spouse) your spouse may not simply stop paying child support or pay less than the full amount. In order to alter child support, you must ask a court to order a change. Florida law allows courts to modify child support if the parent with support obligation can prove that he or she has undergone a change in circumstances that is substantial, permanent and involuntary.
If your spouse is withholding child support, you should follow the appropriate legal channels to notify the authorities of your spouse’s failure to pay. Florida has several options for parents who do not pay child support, and the penalties are substantial. A parent who is derelict in paying child support may lose his or her passport and/or driver’s license, may have liens placed on property, have paychecks garnished or have bank accounts frozen.
One thing you should be certain not to do is withhold visitation rights. Regardless of your spouse’s improper actions, you should be certain to follow all court-ordered obligations you have under the terms of your divorce. The law considers the court orders regarding visitation and child custody to be independent obligations. Your failure to follow the court’s visitation order can be grounds for your being held in contempt of court regardless of whether or not your spouse is paying child support.
If you are facing a spouse who has stopped paying child support, you should consult with an attorney who is familiar with the law and the courts. Our Florida child support attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable about cases just like yours, so contact our office today to learn about your rights and options.