Getting the Credit You Deserve for Payments to Third Parties in Your Florida Retroactive Child Support Case

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.

More recently, a very similar issue emerged in a Hernando County father’s case, with a similar result. The husband and wife had purchased a home and had also filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy during the marriage. A temporary order early in the divorce process demanded that the father pay 100% of the monthly bankruptcy payment and the monthly mortgage payment.

The father made both of these payments every month during the divorce. The child support worksheet didn’t reflect those payments and he received no credit for either the bankruptcy payments or the mortgage payments when it came time to calculate his retroactive child support obligation. The law regarding factoring in these kinds of payments says that the court MUST include them in its retroactive support calculations and, if the judge does not, then that is a legal error that can entitle the supporting parent to a reversal on appeal. That’s what happened here and, so, the father won a reversal of the retroactive child support decision.

Most parents want to see their children properly supported. At the same time, a parent who pays child support also understands that being forced to overpay child support can actually harm his ability to provide for (and be involved with) his family, including that child, in other ways. When it comes to child disputes, whether it’s custody, timesharing or child support, trust the experienced South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. to provide you with the legal representation you need. Our team has been providing useful advice and thoughtful solutions for a wide array of family law issues for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.