Myths Vs. Facts Of Child Support

Support for a child is determined on the income of both parents and tries to place the child in the same position s/he would have been had the parents stayed together.

Many myths and misconceptions abound regarding child support. Some may come from the fact that different states have different laws regarding child support; others may come from experiences people have had in the past that are no longer relevant due to changes in the law. Below are some commonly-held Myths - some true, some false - about child support.

MYTH #1 - If Mom and Dad have "joint custody," then there is no child support.

Fact: "Joint custody" is a frequently used term that is often misunderstood. There are two types of custody: legal and physical. Most parents have "joint legal custody," which means they share in making decisions about five major areas affecting the children: residence, religion, recreation, education or day care, and non-emergency medical treatment. "Physical custody", now called "timesharing" or "periods of responsibility", describes when the children spend time with each parent. Typically, the children spend more time with the primary custodial parent, and weekends, alternating holidays, and part of summer with the other parent. Because child support is based on combined income as well as time spent with each parent, one parent usually owes child support to the other, even if they have "joint custody". Only if both parents earn the same income, pay equal amounts for insurance and day care, and have the children the same number of days will no child support be transferred from one parent to the other.

MYTH - Only one parent owes child support.

Fact: Each parent is legally obligated to contribute to the financial support of the children, so the formula shows the amount of each parent's share.

Myth: Divorcing parents can pick the child support amount they think is fair for one parent to pay to the other.

Fact: The amount of child support required to be paid in divorce or other support proceeding is controlled by Florida Statutes which contains a mathematical formula for determining child support. The formula is based on each parent's income, amounts paid for health and dental insurance for the child, the number of overnights spent with each parent, transportation expenses for the child to travel from one parent to another, extraordinary medical expenses, and other matters.

Myth: Once child support amounts are approved by a court, they cannot be changed.

Fact: Either parent can request a review of the child support payment amounts. Common reasons for a review include a significant raise or drop in income by either parent, a new job or a job loss, a change in the size of a family, a change in work-related daycare expenses, or extraordinary medical expenses.

Myth: Filing bankruptcy will relieve me of the need to pay child support.

This is false. Child support is one of the few debts that cannot be discharged by bankruptcy. Although the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement will limit its collection efforts to just current support (and not back payments still owed), after the bankruptcy is discharged, those back payments are still due. However, bankruptcy may help some people by making more money available every month to pay child support.

Myth: If a parent doesn't pay child support, the state can take the money from his or her paycheck.

Fact: Child support can be automatically withheld from the paying parent's pay check, even if the paying parent was never late or underpaid the child support amount. Paycheck deductions for child support are the largest source of child support payments. The state may also intercept state and federal tax refunds, as well as unemployment checks.

MYTH: The child support money can only be spent on the children, and I have a right to know how that money is spent.

Fact: Sorry, paying parents. The basic table for child support is calculated on national economic statistics, adjusted for Florida, and takes into account not only the cost of food, clothing, haircuts, and toys for the children, but the overall expenses for the children's home, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, house insurance, laundry, car gas, etc. The parent receiving the support has to maintain a household for himself or herself as well as for the children. The receiving parent is not required to explain how the child support money is spent or even if any of the money is spent solely for the child.

Myth: After my child turns 18, I am no longer eligible for child support.

Fact: In Florida, children are entitled to support until they turned 19 or graduated from high school, whichever comes first.

Myth: I cannot collect back-owed child support now that my child is older than 18.

Fact: Delinquent payments are still owed, even after the child has turned 19. These payments are still owed to the parent, unless a court determines they should be made to the adult children.

Myth: Non-payment can affect a parent's credit rating.

Fact: Every payment (or non-payment) is reported to Division of Child Support Enforcement. Non-payment may also result in revocation of the parent's driver's license and passport.

Myth: I can make payments directly to the other parent, rather than going through the Division of Child Support Enforcement.

Fact: Once a parent has been ordered to make payments through the Florida Disbursement Unit, any other direct payments to the other parent do not count against the child support obligation, and are considered merely a gift.