Few people get married and have children with the expectation of divorce. Not only are lingering feelings of ill-will harbored by spouses, but confusion, insecurity and resentment are often the lot of the children involved. In some cases, this collateral damage is mild. In other cases, it is much more acute.
Overshadowing all of it are the existential needs of survival. Who will provide for these children? How much support do they need, and for how long? In states like Florida, another question arises. Is there a fixed legal limit to child support payments? Or is the sky the limit?
Child Support in Florida
Those ordered to pay child support in the Sunshine State are so charged to provide for the safety, sustenance, health and education of the child or children in question. In fact, both parents are responsible for child support. Still, the common understanding of the term is a regular financial payment from the non-custodial to the custodial parent.
In 1975, the Florida Supreme Court found that no parent is ever exempt from some form of support for dependent children as old as 21. Rules pertaining to support are laid down in the State of Florida Statutes, Title V, Chapter 39, Section 1. This all begs the question, however: is there a cap on how much money constitutes child support in Florida?
Where Exactly Do Support Payments Go?
First and foremost, child support goes to pay for necessities. Yet it can also serve to enhance a child's quality of life.
- Food and Clothes: These include the groceries, school lunches and even meals out, as well as the regular replacement of wardrobe items.
- Educational Expenses: These can include private school tuition, uniforms, stationery and other supplies and expenses related to extra-curriculars like music, sports, etc.
Read More: How to Account for Child Support Payments
Doing the Math for Child Support
The Florida Child Support Guidelines base child support payments on the parents' total income and the number of children eligible for the benefit. The other major variable is how time is divided in terms of with whom the child stays. Special needs regarding health care, counseling and tutoring are also accounted for.
Unless the time-sharing is exactly 50-50 and incomes are equal, one parent is usually paying something to the other. At their most rudimentary, the guidelines will assign a percentage to each parent.
For example, if the father earns $5,600 per month and the mother brings home $4,000 each month, the guidelines require that an estimated $2,755 be allocated on a monthly basis to support three children. Of that, $1,607.08 (58.3 percent) would come from the father and $1,147.92 (41.67 percent) is provided by the mother.
If the kids remain with Mom for 300 nights out of the year and live with Dad for 65 nights, the amounts will be adjusted for both based on this allocation. This ends up with the father paying the difference to the mother each month. So, maximum payments are regulated by income and how many overnights the children spend with each parent.
Defaults on Support Payments
When one parent owes the other child support and defaults on payments, the other parent has recourse to retrieve these funds. The law enabling retroactive child support allows for up to 24 months of back payments to be collected.
A petition for such action must be made through the circuit and county courts, which can then garnish wages, among other powers. Parents who are due back payments must be willing to wait out the sometimes long process.
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.