In most cases, the primary sources of financial support that exist for the benefit of children are the incomes of those children’s parents. In some cases, though, there may be additional sources of income, such as state financial assistance programs. In cases when parents receive assistance from the state, that assistance cannot be used as an offset against a parent’s child support obligation. The 5th District Court of Appeal recently threw out a Seminole County court’s order wiping out the $160 per month obligation the husband would have owed under the child support guidelines. Allowing the husband not to pay child support essentially deprived the children of the full benefits that they should have received from both their parents and the state.
The case tracked the family of R.T. (wife) and K.T. (husband), a Central Florida couple who adopted two minor children with special needs during their marriage. In accordance with Florida law, those adoptions entitled the couple to receive a total of $590 per month as part of the state’s Adoption Assistance Program.
Unfortunately, the couple’s marriage did not last. The wife filed for divorce, and, at the conclusion of the trial, the court awarded the couple joint custody with equal timesharing. Using the statutory child support guidelines, the court calculated that the husband owed a $160 per month child support obligation. The court also determined that the wife would receive the full $590 from the assistance program, but the full amount would be credited against the husband’s child support obligation.
In essence, the wife would receive $590 from the state and would then be responsible for paying $429 of that money back to the husband. The trial court eventually changed that order, instead ordering the couple to split the subsidy evenly. The court also, however, determined that neither parent owed any child support. The wife appealed.
The appeals court determined that wiping out the husband’s child support obligation was improper. Adoption subsidies paid by the state to the parents of children with special needs cannot be used as a credit against a parent’s child support obligations. Upholding the ruling issued by the trial court in this case would ultimately short-change the children because they would not enjoy the benefit of both the state financial assistance and their father’s income during the 50% of the time they spent residing with their mother.
An outcome fashioned by the courts should give adopted children with special needs the benefit of both parents’ incomes and the state subsidy. Splitting the subsidy 50-50 between the parents was correct, but the husband should not be absolved of his $160 per month support obligation.
Dealing with the calculation of child support can be straightforward sometimes, but sometimes it is not. Arriving at a fair and appropriate amount of child support is essential to the well-being of all members of the family. For reliable advice and diligent advocacy in your child support case, contact the South Florida child support attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys are here to help you achieve an outcome that provides properly for both you and your children.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Your Child’s Education and Your Florida Divorce, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 18, 2015
Father Required to Pay Interest on Arrearage Before Child Support Case Can Be Closed, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 26, 2015
Photo: Boy with Down Syndrome by Vanellus Foto at Wikimedia Commons.