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Child Support

In Florida, child support is the financial obligation of every parent, whether married, single or divorced.

Child support is the court-ordered obligation of the financial support for the care, maintenance, training, health, and education of a child. Child support is the right of the child. Thus, it cannot be waived by either parent. Parents of a minor child have a legal and moral and ethical duty to support their child. Parents can stipulate to an amount of child support. However, the amount of support must be in the best interests of the child and not merely in the best financial interest of the parents. All Agreements on child support are subject to Court approval.

The agreements will only be approved by the Court if they for the proper care and financial support of the child. Provisions in parenting plans, child support guidelines, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, or marital settlement agreements that attempt to waive child support are unenforceable as they are contrary to Florida law and against public policy.

How Is Child Support Calculated

Child support is calculated by implementing child support guidelines under Fla. Stat. 61.30. Child support is calculated using a formula promulgated under Florida law – in layman’s terms, it is calculated based in part on the number of overnights each parent has with the child or children and the annual incomes of the parents. Other factors are taking into consideration: including, but not limited to: health insurance and dental insurance cost, daycare costs, extraordinary child-related expenses, any special needs of the child, if a parent is already paying child support pursuant to a court order, tax filing status, etc.

Child support is first calculated using the gross income of the parents. Then you subtract certain mandatory, allowed or court-ordered deductions. After that, Florida uses a statutory formula under Florida Statute 61.30 to calculate the basic support obligation of the parents. Each parent’s support will be different depending on a variety of financial factors. Child support will be increased if there are multiple children and/or if there are special needs of the child or children.

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How Is Child Support Enforced?

Child support guidelines are strictly enforced. However, there is an option to deviate from child support guidelines. Courts choose to do this rarely deviate from the child support guidelines set forth in Fla. Stat. 61.30. The fact that you earn minimum wage is not enough to deviate from your child support obligation. If you are unemployed – the court will impute minimum wage to you, at a minimum, in order to calculate your child support obligation. If you were employed and intentionally lose your job or choose to be voluntarily unemployed – the court will impute income to you based upon what you were previously earning. In addition, you may be ordered to paying sanctions and/or attorney fees as a result of the voluntary and/or intentional unemployment.

When deciding whether to deviate from Child Support Guidelines, the court will consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to: the needs of the child, the standard of living of the parents, the parent’s ages, and the financial status of each parent. If the Court deviates from the Child Support Guidelines by more than 5%, findings of fact and conclusions of law will be required in any order regarding child support.

Child support terminates when a child attains the age of majority or graduates high school – whichever is later. If a child marries or becomes emancipated, the child support obligation will also terminate. Child support may be extended past the child’s age of majority if the child has special needs.

Should a child support obligation be entered into by a court, you must comply with it. Otherwise, the other parent can file a Motion for Enforcement and/or a Motion for Contempt against you for your failure to comply with the child support order. Should that parent prevail, you may be ordered to pay that parent’s attorney fees. In addition, the Court holds the power to suspend the non-conforming party’s driver’s license, garnish their wages, suspend occupational and business licenses, put liens on their property, arrest the non-paying parent until they pay, seize their assets or many other sanctions. “Courts have the authority to enforce a judgment by the exercise of their contempt powers.” Parisi v. Broward County, 769 So. 2d 359 (Fla. 2000).

When Does Child Support Terminate?

In addition to receiving current and future child support. A parent can seek child support as far back as two years prior to filing an action for divorce or paternity – even if there is no child support order in place. If there is a court order and the party ordered to pay the child support does not pay, the amount owed is known as “child support arrears”. Whereas, once the support ordered is entered by the court, the Judge can order “retroactive support” based upon the child support calculations in the order for child support prior to the support order being issued.

Contrary to what some people believe – child support orders DO NOT terminate upon the child attaining the age of 18. If there is a child support order in place, a parent can seek to enforce the order and/or modify it up until the child attain the age of 18. Once the child turns 18, the child can enforce the child support obligation for the unpaid amount from the parent who was supposed to pay it. In addition, the adult child may be entitled to attorney fees.

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Child Support litigation is tedious and if you don’t have an experienced attorney on your side – you may forfeit what your children are entitled to.  It is important to retain counsel who is extremely experienced with Florida Family Law.  The attorneys at the Horton Law Group, P.A. have over 20 years of combined experience with family law litigation.  We take pride in our work.

The attorneys at the Horton Law Group, P.A. are knowledgeable in the law, aggressive in court, well-respected in the community and will fight for both, you and your children. If you have questions about child support and/or if you are looking for a family litigation attorney, please call the Horton Law Group, P.A. at 561-299-0018 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with the principal partner of the Horton Law Group, P.A., Sommer C. Horton, Esq.  Or you can email us at marketingdirector@hortonlawgroup.com to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

Common Questions & Answers

Can a parent waive child support?

No. “Child support is a right which belongs to the child. It is not a requirement imposed by one parent on the other; rather it is a dual obligation imposed on the parents by the State.” -Armour v. Allen, 377 So. 2d 798, 800 (Fla. 1st DCA 1979) citing State ex rel. Airston v. Bollinger, 88 Fla. 123, 101 So. 282, 283 (1924).

Can I be arrested if I do not pay my child support obligation?

Yes. Generally speaking, a court may hold you in civil contempt and issue a writ for bodily attachment for failure to comply with a court order, and this includes child support orders. The parent seeking enforcement must file a motion for civil contempt/enforcement and a hearing will be held on the matter. Provide a link to Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(b)-(c). After the court hears from both parties, the court is to enter an order granting or denying the motion for contempt. See Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(d). If the order grants the motion, it must contain findings that the contemnor had the present ability to pay support and willfully failed to do so, and it must contain a recital of the facts on which the findings are based. Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(d)(1). The court may order a sanction designed to compel compliance with the earlier support orders, including incarceration, attorneys' fees, suit money and costs, compensatory or coercive fines, and any other coercive sanction or relief permitted by law. Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(d)(2). However, any such coercive sanction must be accompanied by a provision that gives the contemnor the opportunity to “purge ... the contempt,” meaning to nullify or avoid it. Provide a link to Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(e). The court must make a finding that the contemnor has the present ability to comply with the purge provision and state the factual basis for that finding and the specify the amount of time to comply. Provide a link to Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(e).

Can I collect back owed child support?

Yes. Child support payments that remain unpaid are a vested right of the child, and they cannot be cancelled or reduced retrospectively absent extraordinary or compelling circumstances. Provide a link to Dep't of Revenue ex rel. King v. Blocker, 806 So. 2d 607, 610 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002).

Can I enforce a child support order if my child is over the age of 18?

Generally a parent cannot unless there are extraordinary circumstances but the adult child can enforce the child support order when they attain the age of majority. Child support terminates when the child turns 18, unless the court determines that a child is dependent within the meaning of - Section 743.07(2), which includes a child with a mental or physical incapacity, or one who is between the ages of 18 and 19 and still in high school and performing in good faith. If there are no extraordinary circumstances that exist for a parent to remove child support upon the child attaining the age of majority – the adult child can sue the non-paying parent to recover the back owed child support.

How do I change my child support obligation?

You can file a Chapter 61 proceeding to modify child support payments. - Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(e). Fla. Stat. §61.14. A fundamental prerequisite to modification of a parent's child support obligation is the showing of a “substantial change in circumstances” from the time of the last order and that said modification is in the best interest of the child. - Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(e). - Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.615(e). Jane v. Fero, 678 So. 2d 496, 497 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996) (citation omitted). This change in circumstances must be significant, material, involuntary, and permanent in nature, and the burden of establishing this change in circumstances is on the party seeking modification. If you don’t meet your burden of proof, the petition will be dismissed.

What is included in “Income” when calculating child support?

Gross income includes but is not limited to:

1. Salary or wages.
2. Bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments.
3. Business income from sources such as self-employment, partnership, close corporations, and independent contracts. “Business income” means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income.
4. Disability benefits.
5. All workers' compensation benefits and settlements.
6. Reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation.
7. Pension, retirement, or annuity payments.
8. Social security benefits.
9. Spousal support received from a previous marriage or court ordered in the marriage before the court.
10. Interest and dividends.
11. Rental income, which is gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce the income.
12. Income from royalties, trusts, or estates.
13. Reimbursed expenses or in kind payments to the extent that they reduce living expenses.
14. Gains derived from dealings in property, unless the gain is nonrecurring. - Fla. Stat. §61.30(2)(a).

What do I do if my ex-spouse is not paying child support pursuant to a child support order?

You can file a Chapter 61 proceeding to enforce child support payments. Fla. Stat. §61.13. You can also seek to have the non-paying parent found in contempt of court and be sanctioned and ordered to pay attorney fees. The court can also compel the parent to pay, have the child support deducted directly from his wages or have him incarcerated until he or she “purges” the support obligation.

If I lose my job, do I still have to pay child support?

Yes. Monthly income may be imputed to an unemployed or underemployed parent if such unemployment or underemployment is found by the court to be voluntary on that parent's part. - Fla. Stat. §61.30(2)(b). In the event of such voluntary unemployment or underemployment, the employment potential and probable earnings level of the parent shall be determined based upon his or her recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community if such information is available. Id. In addition, as previously stated, unemployment compensation is considered income for purposes of child support.

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Very professional and reliabe
Sommer and the Horton Law Group provided excellent service, demonstrating professionalism and personal attention to any of my questions regarding a recent legal dispute.
Ms. Horton provided me with excellent legal advice. She took the time to explain everything clearly to me. I found her to be reliable, courteous and professional. I highly recommend her without any reservations.

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Let me start by saying, I have had Sommer represent me in several litigations. She has always been very dependable and honest about how she would handle my particular situations. Her dedication to my cases, even the small ones has always impressed me. Sommer is what I would describe as someone you always want on your side. She is tenacious in getting things done, on time and with as much success as she promised. I would highly recommend her for litigation cases as well as estate planning. I can only say again if you have Sommer you have one of the best to represent you.

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I am completely satisfied with Ms. Sommer Horton, Esq. as my attorney, and for her law firm, the Horton Law Group, P.A. for their outstanding service and customer care. I highly recommend Ms. Horton as an attorney in Florida and her law firm. Ms. Horton and her staff are efficient and professional with understanding my case and not wasting any of my time or resources. Ms. Horton always promptly answers my calls and questions, and makes sure that I can review all work, and she helps me make timely decisions for my case. Ms. Horton and her staff are always courteous and prepared for my case in and out of court and I have been relieved by her as a trusted professional to ensure that my case is grounded in legal case law, Florida statutes, and working to come up with the best solutions for me.

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Over the past decade, Sommer Horton and her team at the Horton Law Group have treated me like family and have helped me through multiple legal matters. The entire team has always communicated quickly and efficiently while taking the time to help me thoroughly understand even the most complex legal jargon. They’ve consistently shown empathy and have always made time for me and my family through the process. Sommer Horton is Simply the Best. THANK YOU HORTON LAW GROUP!

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It is not often that I take the time to compliment a Professional that I felt it was their job to do well to begin with. However, it was a pleasant surprise to deal with someone who went far beyond my expectations and performed as well as you in preparing my Estate Planning. I also appreciate that your billing was as reasonable as it was. Most people expect that “sticker shock” when dealing with Lawyers and Accountants. I found that your knowledge of Finances made it unnecessary for me to incur any further expense for accounting.
Thanks for the great job that you and your staff did.

Ralph B., Client

Serving as a Successor Trustee with several litigation cases pending, having an attorney working diligently for your client is of utmost importance. Sommer Horton was that attorney. Regardless of the nature of the situation, Sommer was there to support and advise not only my client, but myself as well. She and her team worked meticulously to delve into the issues so that our client’s interest was best represented. Her efforts were rewarded with favorable outcomes for our client, that is what we call a win, win. Sommer Horton and the Horton Law Group, P.A. were amazing, I highly recommend them.

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Margarita K, Client
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