The sadness and anxiety brought on by separation, divorce or other splits between parents is a hard reality for children. Depending on their age, it can be a traumatic series of events for kids to endure, so parents should try to communicate with wisdom and tenderness. Yet an even more existential challenge looms, and that is a financial one.
How does a custodial parent afford to raise one or more dependents on just one income? Fortunately, the law provides for that in the form of child support. So, how do you apply for child support in a state like Florida?
What Are the First Steps for Child Support?
Before anything else, a parent wants to be sure he or she is eligible for child support in the Sunshine State. The Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Courts of Florida hears cases related to child support, so eligibility begins with a judicial order.
As there is no jury in such cases, the judge is referred to as the "trier of fact." The order can be initiated as the result of a hearing or, alternatively, the order can be subsequent, i.e. the amount of support gets adjusted due to a change in familial circumstances. In so doing, judges must adhere to statutory guidelines.
The bottom line is that a parent can’t obtain child support payments by means of an online application. The request is made through a divorce proceeding, paternity suit or another civil action against the other parent/guardian. Among the factors taken into account are:
- The needs of the child/children in question.
- The age of each child.
- The present standard of living.
- The financial capacity of each parent.
In addition, the amount of time spent with the non-custodial parent will also help determine the amount of any child support ordered.
What Happens Next?
Once a decision for child support is issued and the appropriate dollar amount determined, it becomes the responsibility of the obligor, i.e. the payor, to comply with the court's instructions. Unfortunately, not every obligor fulfills the court-ordered responsibilities. This is where the enforcement authority comes in.
The Child Support Enforcement Division of the Circuit Courts of Florida acts on behalf of obligees when:
- Obligors go missing.
- Paternity is questioned.
- Support orders need enforcement.
- Support orders need to be modified.
Read More: Can a Bank Account Be Garnished for Child Support?
A Host Of Government Sources
Having access to myriad partner agencies and government resources, this division successfully locates non-custodial parents and gains access to the necessary assets so that court orders may be discharged. Of course, any information the custodial parent supplies expedites this task. The more information provided, the quicker the matter is resolved. Usually, there is an interview with the custodial parent regarding the length and nature of any payment delinquency.
Once the division has located the other parent and assembled the necessary facts, it will serve the non-custodial parent with notification of legal action. Enforcement of an existing order can take up to six months, whereas a new action, as with paternity discovery, can last up to eight months. The enforcement unit has the authority to garnish wages, freeze bank accounts, suspend driver licenses and passports and place liens on property.
Read More: Can They Take Child Support From a Joint Account?
Apply for Enforcement Assistance
Contacting the Enforcement Division of your regional circuit court is the first step. Some courts might make an application available online. Others will require a hard copy application. More information is always preferred. Public assistance recipients receive this service without the obligee making an application.
Adam Luehrs is a writer during the day and a voracious reader at night. He focuses mostly on finance writing and has a passion for real estate, credit card deals, and investing.