Child support is essentially a payment from the higher income parent to the lower income parent. Child support and timesharing have an interesting relationship. The law values the child and parent relationship. A parent’s right to timesharing is not dependent upon being current in child support. It is a frequent mistake among individuals to assume that timesharing can be denied if an Obligor parent fails to keep up with his or her child support. Such has no such relationship to Florida law.
Another misconception is that child support must go to the child specifically. However, it is a general purpose reimbursement which covers the cost of living in a household with children. The amount of child support paid by each parent is dependent upon the amount the Florida child support guidelines determine. The number of overnights the child or children spend with each parent is one of the factors used to decide a parent’s child support under Florida’s guidelines. There is a chart that is published within the Florida Statutes that shows the amount of child support a child is entitled to.
Florida law requires that generally, where there are minor children then child support should be paid. The principle behind this general rule is that entitlement to support belongs to the children and parents cannot decide not to pay support. There are situations in which a parent does not have a child support obligation. In Florida, this must either be because the amount of support owed is very minimal, as determined by the guidelines, or the specific reasons must be enumerated in the child support order. The law allows up to a 5% deviation from the guidelines without further enumeration. Florida has a form known as a Child Support Guideline Worksheet which is required to be filed in every divorce and paternity case where child support is determined. The guidelines account for some of the specific costs of supporting a child, such as health insurance and uncovered medical expenses. As long as a parent is awarded at least 20 percent of the overnights, overnights are a specific factor used to determine a parent’s support. Items like rent, electricity, water, and food are essential items that are not specifically accounted for in the guidelines. Other items that are specifically accounted for under the guidelines are taxes, daycare, and medical costs.
In Florida, a parent cannot be denied timesharing because he or she is not current in his or her child support obligation. The reality is that parents frequently attempt to establish a parenting plan with the maximum number of overnights they can bargain for in an effort to reduce their support obligation. The majority timesharing parent is typically the parent that is the recipient of support and the child tax exemption. Financial obligations can be more difficult to meet when there are two separate households to support compared with one. The living standards of the family are often lowered after a divorce as the available funds for the family are diluted with the needs of two separate households.
The legal system has staunchly attempted to encourage timesharing, formerly known as visitation by separating the right to visitation from any requirement regarding child support. Therefore, a parent that is behind on their support obligation is not alienated from their child. Otherwise, the child would become a victim of the system trying to enforce his or her support. The child support guidelines were changed a few years ago to allow for adjustments for timesharing when a parent had at least 20 percent of the overnights (formerly 40 percent). It appears that this change was to encourage parents to exercise timesharing and it created a financial benefit. Child support is calculated based on numerous factors. The most important one is the number of overnights each parent is awarded. In the event a parent does not exercise the timesharing they are awarded, the court can retroactively adjust child support to account for the lack of timesharing adherence to the parenting plan. Timesharing will always have a relationship to child support, but its role has changed somewhat from simply a calculation used to determine one’s financial obligation to a tool that encourages the child/parent relationship in some cases.
About the author
Neil Weinreb is a Florida licensed attorney who has been practicing family law for over 15 years in North Florida. Mr. Weinreb works for the Law Office of David M. Goldman in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Weinreb has worked as an adjunct professor teaching law to paralegal students at Jones College in Jacksonville, Florida. You can contact Mr. Weinreb at the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a free initial consultation today to find out how having an experienced attorney on your side can help. Call (904) 685-1200 today.