Why is there so much misinformation out there about child support? Mostly because states have different laws and people have had different experiences. Here are 11 common Florida child support myths and the reality.
Myth: Joint custody means no one pays child support.
Reality: In Florida there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Typically, divorced parents share parenting time and have “joint legal custody.”
- Legal custody is the right to make decisions about the child or children’s residence, religion, recreation, education or day care, and non-emergency medical treatment.
- Physical custody is also called “timesharing” or “periods of responsibility “is the actual time that the child or children spend time with each parent. The primary custodial parent usually spends more time with the child or children.
Child support is based on two things: the parents’ combined income and the amount of time spent with each parent. This is why in Florida one parent will owe child support to the other parent even if they have joint custody.
Only in cases where both parents earn the same amount and pay the same amount (for things like insurance, day care, school, etc.) and have the child or children for the same number of days each week or month will there be no child support paid.
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Myth: Only one parent will pay child support.
Reality: Child support is based on a state formula. Both parents are required to contribute to financially support the child or children. The state formula will indicate how much each parent is obligated to pay.
Myth: Child support amounts are decided by the parents.
Reality: Florida Statutes govern how much child support is paid, not the parents. Florida uses a formula to calculate this amount. There are only rare situations where a couple can detour from this formula.
Myth: Florida child support payments cannot be changed.
Reality: Florida lawmakers realized that life happens and economic, geographical and health situations change. For example, one parent may experience a significant change in income- either earning much more or much less than when the support calculations were made. Daycare costs and needs could change as could health care costs. Parents can request a modification when major life events happen. Payments can be deferred or reduced in the event of a job loss. All modifications must be approved by the Court.
Myth: If I lose my job and don’t make payments I can be sent to jail.
Reality: While there are serious consequences to not paying child support you will not be held “criminally liable” for not making payments if you are physically unable to do so.
Myth: As long as I get a check to my ex I am in the clear.
Reality: You must make payments through the Division of Child Support Enforcement. Paying the other parent directly does not “count” and is viewed as a gift by the Florida court system.
Myth: I only have to pay child support until my child turns 18.
Reality: Florida support laws require support payments until your child or children graduate from high school or turn are 19 whichever comes first.
Myth: Child support payments are viewed as income for the other parent.
Reality: In Florida child support payments are not declared by the receiving parent as income. They are also not tax deductible for the person who pays them.
Myth: If I declare bankruptcy I don’t have to pay child support.
Reality: This is not true anywhere in the United States. Child support is not discharged by bankruptcy. The benefit of filing is that you may have money available every month to pay your child support.
Myth: My wages will not be garnished if I don’t pay child support.
Reality: In Florida your child support payments can be automatically withheld or “garnished” from your pay check. This can happen even if you were never late or if you underpaid the child support amount. In Florida your state and federal tax refunds and unemployment checks can also be garnished for child support.
Myth: Child support payments are to be used for the children only.
Reality: While parents may disagree on what directly or indirectly affects the child or children, the fact is that child support payments can be used for a whole host of things such as food, healthcare and extracurricular or school activities, and costs related to living. The parent who received the money does not need to tell the other parent what the money is being spent on.
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