What is child support?
Child support is a parent’s legal obligation to provide for their children. It is the responsibility of both parents. The money actually belongs to the children and is to be used only for them, to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care – the necessities of life. Child support payments cannot be waived. When faced with the custody and child support issues during a break up, it is important to remember that they are two separate and distinct matters. The custodial parent must not keep the non-paying parent from seeing the child(ren) at their designated visitation time. On the other side of that issue, the supporting parent may not stop child support payments if the custodial parent does not allow the children visitation as ordered, The law frowns on those who impede the right of the children to be supported, or keep the children from their other parent.
Which parent pays child support?
In the “bad old days,” it used to be that the scenario was always the same. The mother had custody of the children, and the father paid child support. These days, there is no gender preference given on this issue. Typically, the parent that the children do not live with pays child support to the other parent. The respective incomes of the parents are a big factor in this. Another is how many overnights does the child(ren) spend at the non-custodial parent’s house? Who provides the medical and or dental insurance? What about medical co-payments and non-covered items? There are specific guidelines set out in the Florida statutes to determine the amount of child support to be paid. This amount depends on things such as income of each parent and number of children in the family. Be sure to consult with an attorney when trying to figure out how much you will likely be ordered to pay.
What happens if I move out of state?
Moving out of state can cause problems in child support. Fortunately many states work together to collect child support. If either parent plans to move in or out of Florida and there is a court order to pay / collect child support payments, it is best to get the advice of an attorney with child support experience.
What happens if child support payments aren’t being made?
If child support payments are not being made and the determination is that the parent is willfully not making payments, there are many sanctions the non-paying parent can face: wage garnishment, seizure of bank accounts, suspension of driver’s license or car registrations, fines, seizure of income tax refunds and there is even the possibility of jail time.
When does it end?
When child support ends can be a tricky question without one stock answer. For the most part, child support ends when your child(ren) turn 18. If you have more than one child, support will end when each one turns 18. There are several exceptions to this general rule:
1. If your child is 18, but has not graduated from high school yet, the support will continue until your child(ren) graduates.
2. If your child is not scheduled to graduate before age 19, support will terminate at age 18. (Sometimes the effect of this “loophole” ensures children graduate early!)
3. If one or more of your children is special needs, and they will never be able to be self-supporting, then child support in Florida does not end for their lifetime. (there are estate planning strategies that can help with this situation, but you definitely need professional help)
A Few Other Circumstances
There are a number of other situations that will bring an end to your child support obligation. If your child joins the military, your payments end. If your child gets married (with your consent of course!) you are no longer obligated to pay child support. If they are otherwise emancipated by petition of the court, the obligation ends. The legal theory behind these circumstances triggering an end to child support is that they are no longer children.
To Sum Up…
Like most legal questions, the answer to this is “it depends.” There are several criteria for determining when child support ends, so you need some professional legal advice to assess your particular situation. You may need to get an official order from the court to end your child support obligation or it may have been written into your final decree. An experienced family law attorney can help guide you through this when the time does finally come.