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Articles Posted in Child Support

Many online news headlines are intentionally constructed to be shocking, thereby getting you to click. In one recent example, a British online news publication covered a case where two Gloucestershire parents were ordered to support their 16-year-old married daughter and to pay that support to the girl’s 27-year-old husband.

Sounds shocking, doesn’t it? It may also lead you to wonder… could that happen to me, here in Florida? If you are the majority-timesharing parent of a teen, could you go from receiving child support to paying child support if your under-18 child marries? As always, to get the customized answers you need, which are tailored to the specific facts of your case, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney. (Generally speaking, though, a Florida parent would never find himself or herself in the position that these two British parents found themselves.)

Many people focus closely on a child’s 18th birthday when it comes to assessing how long a child support obligation lasts. However, Florida law actually acknowledges several scenarios in which a child support obligation might end prior to a child’s 18th birthday. One is if the child obtains a court judgment declaring the child to be legally “emancipated.” This is also sometimes called “divorcing one’s parents.” Several celebrities, like actors Macaulay Culkin, Ariel Winter, Jaime Pressly and Juliette Lewis and Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu, have successfully undertaken such action. Once a child is emancipated, the parents lose all parental authority over that child, but also lose the obligation to support that child financially.

When you are the spouse or parent who is potentially responsible for paying alimony or child support, there are a lot of financial factors that go into calculating exactly how much that obligation should be. One of the things that the law requires courts to consider is other payments that benefit your spouse and/or child. For example, if you are paying the mortgage payment on the house in which your spouse lives, that payment could be declared to be a type of spousal support. Similarly, paying 100% of your children’s private school tuition might qualify as a form of child support. These areas can be especially important when you’re in a case where you are potentially facing an order to pay retroactive support.

Two recent cases show how the process is supposed to work, and what you can do when it doesn’t. In the first, J.C.J. and M.J. were Palm Beach County parents going through divorce. At the conclusion of the divorce case, the trial judge made several rulings about alimony and child support. One of the rulings demanded that the father pay retroactive child support.

The father later appealed and won a reversal of the retroactive child support order. The reason? When the trial judge made that ruling, he didn’t factor in the mortgage payments that the father had made. The father had evidence that he had been the one who paid the mortgage payments on the home in which the child lived during the pendency of the divorce. Florida law says that a supporting parent is entitled to receive credit for “actual payments” made to the child or to the other parent. They’re also entitled to credit when making payments to third parties for the benefit of the child. That includes things like payments to lenders or landlords to cover the housing payment for the home in which the child resides. This father didn’t get that credit, which is why he was entitled to have his retroactive child support recalculated.

Whether you are a parent with majority timesharing, have minority timesharing or have a 50-50 arrangement, child support can have a very important impact on your ability to provide for your child and, especially if you are the minority timesharing parent, maintain a close relationship with that child. With that in mind, arriving at a fair and just amount of child support can be very important for all members of your family. To help with these and other elements of divorce, be certain you have the representation you need from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

When it comes to calculating child support, there are guidelines for making that determination. However, even with pre-existing guidelines, the calculation relies upon certain information that isn’t pre-set, like determining the amount of income each parent makes. This is one area, among several, where the potential for errors exists, and those errors have the possibility to cause you great harm.

The recent case of a family from Central Florida provides a useful example. R.M. and C.M. had a 50-50 timesharing arrangement regarding their two minor children. Even with equal timesharing, one parent may still be entitled to an award of child support if the other parent makes more money. In this case, the trial court determined that C.M., the mother, made $107,761. R.M., the father, had been recently involuntarily terminated from his job at a bank. He had just started a brand-new medical underwriting company. The company had one client and had invoiced that client the sum of $7,200 for a job that, the court concluded, took one month to perform.

If you are familiar with Florida’s legal rules that relate to child support, then you may have heard the phrase “imputed income.” Imputed income means that, when it comes to calculating child support, a court will perform that calculation based upon that imputed income amount, even though the paying parent’s actual income is less–sometimes significantly less. A court may assign imputed income because the paying parent is unemployed by choice, or is voluntarily employed in a job making less than what he’s capable of earning. These rules exist to prevent a paying spouse from not working or underperforming by choice in order to avoid paying more child support.

So, then, one important question that may be on your mind is when, exactly, can a court impute income? What if I relocated to a new city and the job prospects there are less lucrative? What if I began working fewer hours because I needed to care for a seriously ill family member? What if I decided that I simply wanted to “slow down” a bit in terms of work? For helpful answers to questions about your specific situation, be sure to consult a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney.

D.W. and T.W. were parents involved in this kind of dispute. When they divorced in 2009, the father agreed to pay $550 per month in child support. Several years later, financial circumstances had changed and both parents were back in court seeking a modification of child support. The father, who was once a high-level executive chef and had also owned his own restaurant in the Panama City area, had left that work to run a small coffee shop with his current wife.

In this blog, and likely in other sources, you’ve read pieces emphasizing the importance of not “going it alone” in your family law case, but instead obtaining a skilled South Florida family law attorney to represent you in your action. That’s advice is effective for many reasons. One is that, while you may think that your case will simply come down the resolution of factual disputes, almost any type of case (whether it’s family law or something else) can be greatly helped by a legal professional with in-depth knowledge of the procedural rules in effect in Florida.

As a real-life example of this, here’s the case of D.S. and A.S. The Seminole County couple was in court over a child support dispute. The mother, A.S., wanted the father, D.S., to pay more child support (in terms of duration). She filed a “petition for modification of child support.” The trial court in Seminole County referred the case to a general magistrate.

There might be several strategic or tactical reasons why you might prefer that your case not be heard by a magistrate. This father found himself in that position and timely filed a written objection to the referral to the magistrate. Despite the promptly lodged written objection, the case still went forward before the magistrate and the mother was successful, with the magistrate extending the father’s child support obligation for an additional one year.

In your Florida child support case, it is important to understand when a Florida judge can, and cannot, issue a ruling. As one Orlando-area case recently showed, the rules regarding when a court can order child support are much broader than those regarding when a court can determine custody. There is no requirement that Florida be the child’s “home state” under child custody jurisdiction laws. In other words, if you’re in Florida and you need to assert a claim for imposition of a child support obligation, you should reach out to an experienced Florida family law attorney as you may be able to bring your case in this state.

The child support case between R.K. and P.K. was one that involved this type of issue of court jurisdiction. The couple wed in Florida, had a child here and lived as a family in this state for several years. However, at some later point, the marriage broke down, the couple separated and the mother and child relocated to Ireland.

In the summer of 2017, the husband filed for divorce in Brevard County. As part of his court document filings, the father asserted that, under Florida’s child custody jurisdiction laws, Florida courts did not have jurisdiction over the child, so the husband’s pleadings pertained solely to the couple’s issues that did not involve the child. The wife’s court papers asked the court in Brevard County to award child support, ordered that the husband contribute to the child’s uncovered health care costs and to maintain medical insurance for the child.

In any child support case, it is important if you are the parent with support obligation to contest aggressively through proper legal channels any overstatement of the amount of money you owe. For one Miami father, that recently meant going to the Third District Court of Appeal to contest a ruling that he owed seven and one-half years of child support based upon a temporary domestic violence injunction. The father was able to get that support arrearage reduced from 7.5 years down to just one year because the injunction expired after one year and the law doesn’t allow imposition of support based upon expired injunctions. If you find yourself, like this father, facing a claim that you owe a massive support arrearage, take action by retaining a skilled South Florida family law attorney to handle your case.

To understand what this case can mean for you, it helps to study the timeline. In August 2007, a trial court issued a “temporary injunction for protection against domestic violence with minor children” against K.C. As part of that case, the court ordered K.C., the father, to pay $351 every other week in child support to the mother, B.G..

Many years later, K.C. and B.G. were back in court, this time on a paternity action. At the conclusion of this case, the court decided that the temporary injunction was still in effect in March 2015, and that the father owed more than $28,000 in back child support for the preceding seven and one-half years.

When you pay child support, that money goes to allow the children’s other parent to provide for the children’s day-to-day needs. So, what happens when you or someone other than that other parent becomes the person who provides for that child on a day-to-day basis? Generally, there are certain circumstances in which the payor parent can offer what’s called an “equitable defense” against paying the full amount of support. One of these defenses is triggered when the child being supported ceases being supported by the custodial parent. In other words, you may have a case for not owing a portion of your child support obligation not only when a child moves in with you, but also when a child moves in with a grandparent or aunt/uncle or so forth. For answers to all your child support questions, contact a skilled Florida family law attorney for the information you need

One Florida family recently encountered this type of issue. The couple’s divorce action included a marital settlement agreement that laid out terms for child support. The agreement stated that the father would pay the mother $820 per month in support of the couple’s three children. The agreement also contained conditional terms for when each child became “emancipated” (turned 18). For support of two children, the amount stated in the agreement was $673 per month.

In 2016, the mother went back to court seeking an order of enforcement and/or an order holding the father in contempt. The mother alleged that, in June 2015, the father unilaterally started paying a reduced amount of child support, with modification order from the court. The father fought back, arguing that he was entitled to pay a lesser amount because the couple’s eldest child had switched from living with the mother to living with him.

You may have heard phrases like “due process” or “equal protection” on the news or in a courtroom TV show, but you may not imagine them having a substantial impact on your divorce case. You may assume that your divorce case will involve, primarily, an assessment of the factual evidence each side presents. That is not always true, however. Any family law case, like any other case, can turn on issues of fact or issues of law, including constitutional law. That’s why, no matter how straightforward or basic you may think your family law case is, you should be sure to retain the services of an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

One recent South Florida case is an example of this concept. Zanja and Richard’s case started as a straightforward paternity, timesharing, and child support matter. The court originally scheduled the hearing for one day. As is true in many cases, this pair’s hearing ran long. At the end of the first day of the hearing, the judge scheduled a second day for the continuation of the hearing. At the start of that second day, the court indicated that both sides would have a chance to present their cases-in-chief.

At the end of the second day, the parties still weren’t finished. However, this time, the judge did not allow the hearing to expand to another day. The judge ordered that, due to time limitations, each side would simply wrap up by presenting their closing arguments, and the judge would rule on what had been presented. There was one major problem:  the mother still hadn’t had the opportunity to present her case-in-chief yet.

In many court disputes involving children, child support is a key issue. Calculating the correct amount of child support can be complicated if one of the parents is not working. If the parent is unable to work, the court may proceed with calculating support based that parent’s having zero income. If the parent is able to work, however, the court must do what’s called “imputing” income to that parent. That means calculating child support as if that parent is receiving an income that he or she isn’t actually getting, and it can make a big difference in the outcome of your child support case. Whether you are potentially paying support or seeking it for your child, make sure you have the services of an experienced Florida child support attorney on your side.

Jennifer and Miguel were two parents whose child support case presented an imputed income issue. They had a child together who was born in 2009. In 2010, the father initiated a paternity action, and the court awarded him majority timesharing. The mother had been employed by the sheriff’s office but lost that job due to alleged misconduct, including misusing electronic resources of the sheriff’s office in order to obtain information about the father’s attorneys and his girlfriend.

In his court case, the father argued that the court should impute income to the mother and should do so at the relatively substantial amount she was making with the sheriff’s office when she was terminated. The mother, on the other hand, asserted that she was disabled and that, because of her disabilities and her inability to find another job, the court should not impute any income at all to her.

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