In Part I of my blog on the top 10 things to know about child support in the state of Florida, I focused more on the establishment of child support obligations. In Part II of this blog, I will talk more about other issues that arise when dealing with child support, including questions I regularly get once Florida child support has been established.
6. There are No Restrictions on How Money Is Actually Spent
Once a court orders that a parent pay child support, the court will only order that the one parent pay and it will not dictate to the receiving parent how that money must be spent. It seems like it should go without saying that the child support should be spent for the benefit of the children, however, there is nothing in Florida law that dictates how a parent that receives child support should actually be spending this money. Sometimes this can be very frustrating for a paying parent that does not believe their money is being spent towards the benefit of the children. At least one state, Texas, is beginning to address this issue by proposing that child support be placed onto debit-like cards that are controlled by the state and limited in use to specific stores and/or purchase items. We'll have to keep an eye on how that progresses in Texas, but as of now, in Florida, there are no such restrictions on a parent's ability to spend child support monies in any ways they see fit.
7. Child Support Can Be Modified
Nothing in family law is ever written in stone and child support is no different in that regard. Child support amounts will always be modifiable upon a showing of a substantial, unanticipated change of circumstances, so if either parent experiences a change in their incomes, or other circumstances that may warrant the court re-examining the child support amounts, then that parent will want to speak with an experienced family law attorney to ascertain the likelihood of getting a modification in the child support amounts through the court.
8. Income Withholding Orders
With the entry of a child support order, the court may also enter a separate Income Withholding Order that would automatically deduct the child support amounts from a party's paycheck, in accordance with their regular payroll cycle. Many courts will prefer to enter an Income Withholding Order, and in fact other courts will demand it, as it is the preferred way for child support to be paid from one party to the other, as it keeps a paper trail of transactions and can easily and automatically be implemented by the paying party's employer.
9. Department of Revenue
The main implementation and enforcement arm of child support in the state of Florida is the Department of Revenue. Through the Florida Department of Revenue, a parent can initiate a child support case, make payments on an existing case or inquire about other issues related to child support implementation and enforcement. As a parent receiving child support, these services can be offered at no cost and should be explored by a parent seeking to have child support initiated on behalf of their child.
10. Contempt and Enforcement
A common question that I get once a child support order has been entered is, "What can I do if the other parent is not paying their child support?" The easy answer is to file a Motion for Civil Contempt and Enforcement, in which you would ask the court to find the other party in contempt of the previous child support order that directed them to pay the money, and also for an Order of Enforcement so that the court will actively enforce the terms of the previous child support order.
There are many remedies available under a motion for contempt, including, but not limited to re-payment of all back support, with appropriate interest, continued payments as previously ordered, punitive fines as a punishment for non-payment, coercive fines to force them to start making the payments again, attorney's fees, if applicable, and in more extreme cases, even incarceration of the non-paying party. It may be helpful to engage the services of an attorney in this areas of contempt/enforcement, as they might be more familiar with the specific remedies available considering the history of the case and the specific Judge assigned to handle the case.