Government Stipend Prevents Parent from Collecting Support for Adopted Child

An ex-husband successfully secured primary physical custody of the four children he shared with his ex-wife, but failed to persuade a trial court to order his ex-wife to pay child support on all four children. That’s because a governmental agency already paid a monthly stipend for the fourth child and, since the trial court’s custody modification order gave that stipend to the husband, a Florida appeals court determined that it was not improper to refrain from making the ex-wife pay child support on that child.

J.L.B. and his wife, S.J.B., divorced in 2008. Initially following the divorce, the wife held primary physical custody of the children. Following an incident in which the Florida Department of Children and Families removed the couple’s children from the wife’s home, the husband asked an Orange County court to give him sole custody of the children or, at least, make him the primary physical custodian. The court agreed and ordered that the husband receive majority time-sharing within a joint custody arrangement.

As part of this ruling, the court also assessed a child support obligation to the wife. The husband promptly appealed the child support portion of the court’s ruling. The husband argued that the trial made an error by calculating the wife’s support obligation based on three children, when the couple shared custody of four children.

The 5th District Court of Appeal determined that the trial did not err in refusing to assign the wife with the responsibility of paying child support on all four children. The court pointed out that the fourth child in question was one that the couple adopted and that the couple received a stipend from the State of Georgia of more than $430 per month related to this child. That money, the court decided, was “clearly intended” to constitute support for the child and, since the trial court’s custody modification ruling ordered that the husband begin receiving that stipend money (which had previously gone to the wife,) the trial court’s order effectively accounted for the support of all four of the couple’s children.

The 5th DCA cited two previous decisions where other courts had ruled similarly. In each of those earlier cases, the child received Social Security benefits. In both rulings, the courts decided that the law entitled the non-custodial parent to receive a credit against his support obligation in an amount equal to the amount of governmental benefits the child was receiving.

Ensuring the well-being of their children is extremely important to almost all parents. In situations involving divorce, that often means determining an appropriate amount of child support to ensure that the custodial parent can adequately care for the children. Child support should not, however, become a weapon to use against the non-custodial parent. If you are facing a divorce and want to ensure a fair award of child support for your children, consult the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. They have the ability and experience to provide sensitive yet determined representation to you in this very stressful time.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Couple’s Agreement Didn’t Contract Away Child’s Right to Receive Support, Survives Wife’s Challenge, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 14, 2014
Terms of Settlement Agreement Block Husband’s Effort to Obtain Statutory Child Support Modification, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 20, 2013