Resolving Disputes Over Child Support
Disputes over child-related issues tend to evoke strong emotions, as parents instinctively want to advocate for their child. Child support is particularly prone to pitting parents against one another because of the compounded issues of money and childcare. The financial element of child support can lead parents to become defensive and resentful, which, if unchecked, can spark contentious arguments that sometimes lead to physical altercations. A video of two women fighting over child support was recently posted online, and unfortunately, illustrates the approach that parents should seek to avoid. Physical violence rarely produces the desired results, and could lead to criminal consequences. The law provides a number of options to address child support disputes that are more effective, safer and intended to promote the well-being of the child. A discussion of when modification of a child support order may be warranted, and how to enforce existing child support obligations, will follow below.
When child support is established, the obligation to make payments typically extends for years. But, while the requirement to pay is set for a standard length of time, the amount of support may be changed. Life rarely stays the same, and a person’s circumstances can change quickly and unexpectedly, both good and bad. Further, the needs of a child shift over time, and child support established when a child is five is not necessarily adequate when the child is 15. Thus, Florida law permits either parent to petition for a modification of support, which a court will grant if evidence is submitted that shows a substantial change in circumstances or that an adjustment is needed for the best interests of the child. If there is a change that creates a difference of 15 percent or $50, whichever is greater, when comparing the current amount with the amount that would apply under the guidelines if the parents present incomes and expenses was used, a court is permitted to modify the child support order. Thus, an increase or decrease in income is the most common reason for requesting a modification. Note that voluntary unemployment would not justify a modification of child support, and if the job loss was involuntary, supporting evidence will need to be produced. In addition to income, a change in expenses or the amount of parenting time also could qualify for modification. Typical expense changes that come into play with child support modification are:
- alimony, particularly when a temporary obligation ends;
- other child support orders;
- taxes following a move to different cities or states; and
- healthcare insurance for the child and/or parent.
Finally, actual changes to patterns of parenting time, as opposed to what is listed in the parenting plan, can justify a modification of support if the split in parenting time is substantial, i.e., 300 nights annually versus 250 nights listed in the parenting plan.
Enforcement of a child support order starts with income deduction orders that direct the obligated parent’s employer to automatically withdraw the required amount each pay period, and submit that amount to the state disbursement unit for processing. If this method of collection fails, usually due to a parent frequently changing jobs or choosing not to work, the parent receiving support can petition the court to hold the delinquent parent in contempt if the non-payment was willful. Once a contempt order is in place, a court can compel compliance by imposing jail time, fines or lump sum payments in lieu of jail. Additional available penalties include the suspension of driver’s and professional licenses and the seizure of income tax refunds.
Contact an Orlando Child Support Lawyer
Child support is an important issue for parents who share child custody, and while disagreements are bound to arise, there are ways of resolving them efficiently and civilly. The Donna Hung Law Group represents clients in a variety of child support matters, and is skilled in helping you negotiate an agreement with the other parent, or litigating the dispute in court if necessary. Contact the Orlando law office today at (407) 999-0099 for a confidential consultation.