Child Support in Lakeland Florida is a creature of statute meaning that the obligation for a parent to provide financial support for a child or children is established in Florida Statutes. Chapter 61, Florida Statutes, requires that a parent provide support for any child.
This obligation exists regardless of whether the parent from whom support is sought was married to the other parent at the time of the birth of the child. For example, an unmarried woman gives birth to a child. The mother is allowed by Florida Statute to seek child support from the father even if the father has no interest in raising the child or visiting with the child. The mother would establish the father’s paternity through a simple DNA test and, once paternity is established, the obligation to provide financial support for the child can be set out in a binding Court Order.
Of course, the obligation to provide child support in Lakeland applies as well in cases where the mother and father are married at the time of the birth of the child and later seek a dissolution of that marriage. During any dissolution of marriage proceeding involving children, the Court will establish the financial obligations of each parent and set out in the Final Judgment the amount of child support due.
Child Support Guidelines
Many years ago, the Florida Legislature established a uniform Child Support formula in an effort to provide consistency in child support awards. Simply put, a parent seeking to determine how much child support would be owed determines the “net” income of each parent and, using the total “net” income of both parents, the statutes provide a dollar figure of the child support deemed appropriate by the Florida Legislature. A parent in Miami, Florida going through a divorce involving a child support issue should theoretically pay the same amount of child support as a parent going through a divorce in rural Hardee County, Florida.
How Child Support is Calculated by our attorneys in Lakeland
In practice, child support is calculated by our attorneys in Lakeland using a software program designed to apply all the statutory criteria involved in each case. This software program takes each of the parties’ gross income from work or investments and deducts from this gross amount the parties’ Federal income taxes, Social Security payments, Medicare taxes and other statutorily permitted deductions. Once the parties’ “net” income is determined, a client can know with relative certainty the amount of child support that will be required of that party.
How Costs of Day Care and Health Insurance is Factored Into Child Support in Lakeland
Child Support calculations also take into consideration which party provides health insurance for the child and which party pays for day care or after school care. Usually, one parent makes the health insurance or daycare payment but the child support calculations have the effect of sharing this expense between the parties since the child support calculations provided by statute factor these expenses into the child support payment amount. The practical effect of these calculations allow for the sharing of these expenses between the parents even though one parent actually may write the check for day care or health insurance.
Visitation with Children and its Relationship to Child Support
In any case with child support issues, there is almost certainly going to be an issue or issues involving visitation. A parent wanting visitation with his or her child will request that the Court establish what is known as a “Parenting Plan”. A Parenting Plan is merely a written document incorporated into a Final Judgment or Order of the Court which establishes the times a parent may be with the child.
If a parent spends significant time with the child, the Child Support Guidelines can reduce the amount of child support owed. This reduction simply takes into account the fact that a parent spending significant time with the child is providing direct support to that child for things like food, housing, clothes, etc. while the child is present in the home of the visiting parent. The more time a parent actually spends with the child, the less Child Support will be owed to the other parent.
Similarly, when one parent is not spending time with the child, Child Support amounts can actually be increased by the Court to take into account the fact that one parent is not providing any direct support for the child.
Failure to Pay Child Support Cannot Be Used to Deny Visitation
It is not uncommon for a parent from whom Child Support is owed to stop paying Child Support for one reason or another. Many times, the parent who is supposed to be receiving Child Support payments from the other parent find themselves in a situation where no Child Support is being paid but the non-paying parent still wants to visit with the child under the Parenting Plan established by the Court.
The parent not receiving Child Support understandably wants to withhold visitation to the non-paying parent as an inducement to force delivery of the Child Support check.
Courts generally will not permit a denial of visitation even when Child Support payments are owed. Child Support obligations and visitation are considered separate issues by the Court. If Child Support payments are owed, the Courts are available to force payment in a variety of ways but the Courts will require that visitation continue while the Child Support issue is resolved.
Child Support Enforcement in Lakeland
If Child Support is not being paid, the parent owed Child Support will be able to file with the Court motions directed to forcing payment of the monies owed. Courts take a very dim view when dealing with parents who owe Child Support since many times the obligation to support a child falls on the taxpayers in the absence of support from the parent.
A parent owed Child Support in Lakeland has a variety of tools available to force payment. The Court can garnish wages, garnish IRS refunds, or force the sale of certain assets from which Child Support can be paid. In appropriate circumstances, the Courts have the power to place the non-paying parent in jail until such a time as the Child Support monies owed are paid.
Many factors go into determining the amount of Child Support owed in a particular case. Incomes of the parents, the amount of time spent with the child, special needs of a child, are all factors used to determine the amount of Child Support applicable in any one case.
However, the goal of the Florida Legislature and the Courts is uniformity and predictability of Child Support awards so that parents can understand early on the amounts that will likely be due and owing for any particular child.
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