If you have ever dealt with a government agency, particularly one that involves the collection of your money, it should come as no surprise that they are not always looking out for you and your best interests. This is particularly true as it relates to Florida’s Department of Revenue and their role in the establishment and enforcement of child support. Fathers, do not be fooled into thinking that just because the Florida Department of Revenue has gotten involved and legally established support, that you will now have equal rights of access and time-sharing to your children to that of the child’s natural Mother. You will not.
Under Florida law, the issues related to time-sharing and child support are considered separate and distinct. The law states that the Florida Department of Revenue can be utilized to establish support matters on behalf of the children while leaving the issues related to time-sharing and parental responsibility unresolved. As a result, when a parent gets served with support papers from the Florida Department of Revenue, it is important to understand that the Court’s decision will only involve those related to the financial support of the children and will not establish, modify, or have any other impact on which parent gets to make decisions for or how often a parent gets to see the children. In most cases, it is usually the Mother who establishes child support and the Father who is served with the papers.
In order for a Father to secure rights of access and time-sharing to his children, and to ensure that the support is calculated in a way that considers the amount of time he spends with his children, a Father must file a Petition to Determine Paternity in the Circuit Court in the county in which he lives. Only through the filing of this Petition will a Father be ensured of establishing rights of access and contact with his children.
A Father can file a Petition to Determine Paternity at any time following the birth of his children, or at any time during the pendency of, or even after the conclusion of a Florida Department of Revenue case, but the longer a Father waits, the more he could be over-paying in support. The reason for this is that the amount of time-sharing, and specifically the number of overnights that the children spend with their Father over a yearly period, is not considered when child support is determined in a Florida Department of Revenue child support case. Only in cases where a Petition to Determine Paternity has been filed will the Court utilize what is known as the “gross-up” method—a reduction in the monthly payment based upon the amount of overnights each parent exercises with the minor children—of calculating support. Using the gross-up method, a Father is given credit for the amount of overnights the children spend with him that exceed 20%, or 73 overnights per year. Since the Florida Department of Revenue does not concern itself with overnight time-sharing, the child support calculated in a Florida Department of Revenue case can turn out to be considerably more than it would have been had a Petition to Determine Paternity been filed.
For more, see our article: 10 Things to Know About Florida Child Support: Part I
Contact Attorney Russell J. Frank, [email protected], to learn more about your paternity rights and child support obligations.