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.
The evidence in the case showed that the couple’s then 16-year-old daughter moved in with the father from June 2015 until August 2016 (when the girl turned 18). Nevertheless, a magistrate ruled that the father was on the hook for the full $820 per month until such time as he obtained a court order modifying the child support obligation. The appeals court concluded that the daughter’s transition from living with her mother to living with the father was sufficient to trigger the equitable defense and lower the father’s support obligation.
While the father obtained a successful result, it took him litigating the case all the way to the District Court of Appeal. Why was this true when the law is fairly clear? Part of his problem was his decision to proceed without a lawyer. When the father made his original argument regarding how the eldest daughter had moved in with him, and he had assumed full day-to-day support of her for the last 14 months of her minority, he incorrectly labeled the document he filed as a motion. The magistrate who originally ruled on the father’s case declared that document to an improper pleading, which contributed to his unsuccessful outcome in the lower court and the need for an appeal. Although the father eventually achieved a successful result, having skilled legal counsel to place the same arguments in a more carefully drafted legal document might have allowed the father to win his case in the lower court without ever having to file an appeal.
Whether it is child support, custody and timesharing or some other family law issue, rely upon the knowledgeable South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have been providing clients with the advice and representation they need for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Situations in Which a Child Support Obligation Can Extend Past the Child’s 18th Birthday Under Florida Law, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 20, 2018
Imputing Income to a Parent in Florida, Even When that Parent Has a Disability, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 12, 2017