Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer

Study Reveals Public Misconception About Child Support

A study published by the Child and Family Law Blog showed that the public views court-ordered child support in the U.S. to be grossly unfair. The study consisted of 3,000 prospective jurors who were being interviewed.

“We gave people cases, and said ‘Imagine you are a judge and you are asked to set the amount for this case,'” said Ira M. Ellman, one of the study coordinators. “We would ask the question over and over, changing the incomes of the mother and father. If you ask them ‘How much child support do you think people should pay?’ you’re asking them for all these different income combinations. It gave better insight into what their actual views were,” according to the Deseret National News.

The participants were found to be extremely generous when it came to lowering the amount of child support on the basis of changes to a parent’s income. For example, in one hypothetical, if the noncustodial parent made less than a custodial parent, the amount of child support would be lowered by $100. However, the survey participants stated that they would actually lower the amount by $300.

The study found that people believe it’s fair to change the amount of child support paid if the mother’s income goes up or down, but that if the father was ordered to pay a certain amount, that percentage of his income should remain the same even if his income increased or decreased, according to the Deseret National News article.

Child Support Under Florida Law

In Florida, under current law, child support is based on the incomes of both parents, as well as the number of nights that the child spends at each parent’s home. Child support is generally determined by a judge who uses an income table for guidance on the appropriate amount of monthly support a non-custodial parent should pay. Judges possess the discretion to consider other factors in determining child support, but they have the burden of justifying such a determination in writing and state the rationale (factors) as to why a case needed a different analysis not based on the standard income table.  Parties also have the ability to seek a deviation from the Child Support Guidelines based upon such factors as the particular needs of a child(ren), such as medical needs requiring additional support.

Study Participants Go Further

In another surprising revelation, study participants wanted to take a step-parent’s income into account if a custodial parent got remarried.

“The law doesn’t pay any attention to remarriage of the custodial parent, but our respondents wanted to take into account the step-parent’s income,” said Sanford L. Braver, one of the study’s coordinators. “That changes the resources for the child, that changes the hardship on the custodial parent, they now have the income from a new spouse to rely on.”

So what does this all mean? Well, it indicates that the public has sympathy for the non-custodial parent and wants a child support system that is equitable, but ensures the welfare of the child.

The study is released at an appropriate time in Florida since the state legislature was debating major reforms to alimony, an associated issue with child support. The legislature came close to passing a new set of laws that would abolish permanent alimony and attempt to make alimony more equitable.

Of course, as the law stands, permanent alimony is still an option after a divorce. And, as such, if you are currently interested in separating from your spouse, and have questions about alimony or child support, don’t hesitate to contact Vanessa L. Prieto in Fort Lauderdale for answers and for legal assistance.