The courts in Florida may order either or both parents to pay child support pursuant to the Florida Child Support Guidelines. It is the public policy of the State of Florida that each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child. It is your obligation to pay support regardless of whether you have any contact with your child(ren). You should make all child support payments in a timely manner and keep all of your proof of payments. Child support is a right that belongs to the child(ren) and cannot be waived by the parents.
Child support terminates on the child's 18th birthday unless the parties agree otherwise or the court finds that the child remains dependent beyond the age of 18 years when the dependency is the result of a mental or physical incapacity which began prior to reaching the age of majority or if the child is dependent in fact, between the ages of 18 and 19, is still in high school and is performing in good faith with a reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19. If you have a child that is incapable self-support due to either mental or physical incapacity, then either parent or both can be ordered to continue providing support beyond age 18.
The amount of child support to be paid is determined by applying the child support guidelines and is impacted by several variables. The variables to review when calculating child support are the incomes of each parent, the number of children, the number of overnights spent with each parent, child care costs, child health insurance and expenses, extraordinary medical, psychological or dental expenses, private school expenses, special needs of a child, unemployment and underemployment issues.
Frequently parents want to know what is included in the definition of income. For child support purposes income is very broad and will include salaries, wages, bonuses and commissions, all forms of benefit payments including disability, retirement, workers compensation, unemployment, Social Security, and passive income such as interest, dividends, rents, royalties and trust distributions are all included in the definition of income for child support purposes. An individual's income may be difficult to determine if they are self-employed. Having an experienced family law attorney can help you establish a proper child support amount.
There are also other issues that you may wish to consider and have included in a court order regarding your child or children. For example, how will extracurricular activities be paid. You also want to clarify who will be claiming the child(ren) for federal income tax purposes and for what years. For example, will the parents alternate years or will one parent receive more years than the other. Finally, how will unreimbursed medical expenses be paid.
Please note that the court can also award retroactive child support. The court has discretion to award child support back to the date when the parents stopped living together in the same household with the child. However, they cannot go back more than 24 months prior to the filing of the petition. Accordingly, if you believe you are owed child support then you should file as soon as possible.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have. I have significant experience handling uncontested cases and contested child support cases.
Daniel M. Genet, P.A.
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