Child Support

Child support is legally defined as the obligation for a periodic payment made directly or indirectly by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent for the care and support of the children of a relationship or marriage that has been terminated. Each parent has a responsibility to support a child based on the child’s needs and the parents’ financial resources. Child support usually covers food, clothing, medical insurance, medical and dental expenses, and educational expenses.

How is the amount of child support determined?

In order to determine child support amounts, courts generally require each parent to complete a financial statement which details monthly income and expenses. Based on the financial statement and the amount of time the parent is responsible for the care of the child, the court uses a standard formula to determine the child support amount. The allowance of child support rests with the discretion of the court based on the evidence presented by both parties. The party questioning the amount has the burden of demonstrating that there has been as abuse of discretion.

The child support award is always subject to the test of reasonableness. No court can order a parent to pay more than he or she has been determined he or she has the ability to pay. Since two households must be maintained after a divorce instead of one, it is unlikely that the family will be able to enjoy the same standard living after the divorce. The child support guidelines do not apply to parents with a combined net income in excess of $50,000 per year. These parents are subject to child support orders based on individual case-by-case reviews.

The child support award might be adjusted by the court based on the following considerations:

  • Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses
  • Independent income of the child
  • Seasonal variations in one or both parents’ income
  • The age of the child, taking into account the greater needs of older children
  • Special needs
  • Total available assets of the obligee, obligor, and the child

Paying child support

Once child support amounts have been established, the non-custodial parent must pay child support to the custodial parent until one of the following happens:

  • The child reaches the age of majority (or longer if the child has special needs or is in college)
  • The child is on active military duty
  • The parents' rights and responsibilities are terminated
  • The child has been declared emancipated by a court

Modifying child support payments

It is possible to modify child support payments if it is warranted by the situation. Typically, modification of payments requires proof of a change in circumstances. A change in circumstance may include:

  • Job change of either party that increases or decreases income
  • Child custody or visitation changes
  • Temporary economic or medical hardship of the paying spouse (unemployment, illness, etc.)
  • A child's medical emergency
  • The needs of the child change (school, daycare, etc.)

Do you need a family lawyer?

Agreeing on child support can be a difficult and complex process. If both parents do not agree on a child support amount, the court will have to establish or modify child support. It would be wise to consult with an experienced Broward county lawyer to make sure your rights and interests are protected. Consulting with an experienced local family lawyer will also make the complex legal process much easier to understand and navigate. If you have not been receiving the child support payments you are owed, you should bring this to the attention of the court. The Broward State Attorney can help you by serving the delinquent parent with papers requiring payment of the child support.