Fort Lauderdale Child Support Lawyer
Child support is often a high-conflict issue in dissolution of marriage actions because payments can last for a decade or more. Child support payments are typically required to continue until a child reaches 18 years of age, although certain circumstances, such as disability, can extend these payments for a period or indefinitely. Our firm understands that some spouses try to exploit child support payments for their own gain. At Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, we always put the needs of children first. We are committed to advocating for the support your children deserve without unjustifiably enriching or burdening your former spouse, contact our experienced Fort Lauderdale child support lawyer today.
It is important to note that child support cases do not only arise in the midst of a divorce case. In many cases, parents of a child were never married and one parent may wish to seek support from the other. In such situations, it may be necessary to first establish legal paternity before you can obtain a child support order. Establishing paternity may require bringing legal action so a court can mandate a DNA test, as well as certain other steps if the father will not voluntarily admit paternity. Our office can help you with both the child support case and underlying paternity case, so please do not hesitate to discuss your situation with us as soon as possible so you and your child can start receiving the support you deserve.
How is child support determined in Florida?
After you are awarded custody during your divorce proceedings, the child and spousal support that you receive in Florida can be established through a judicial or administrative procedure. Child support is based on guidelines that consider:
- The income of both parents
- The costs of education and healthcare
- The standard needs of the children
Despite the guidelines, judges in Florida do have discretion to vary the award by five percent. In addition, a judge may order support varying by more than five percent but must provide a written explanation of the reasoning and factors on which the decision is based.
Can child support be modified in Florida?
A child support order may be modified for many reasons, including:
- Extending the support period
- Adding a child to the support order
- Removing a child from the support order
- Altering the medical benefits provided
Although child support can be modified in Florida, you must follow a process. In addition, you must satisfy the following requirements:
- Your current support order must be valid for greater than six months from your filing.
- You must show that either your support order has not been modified in the past three years or you have had a substantial change in your life, such as involuntary unemployment.
In addition to demonstrating that there has been a substantial change in your circumstances, you must also show that the change is permanent. For instance, a short time away from work that causes a temporary loss of income will likely not suffice in justifying a modification.
Challenging a Child Support Modification
Often, when the other parent of your child wants to modify a child support order, it may significantly affect your life. If you are receiving child support, a decrease in support can affect your ability to provide and care for your child. If you are paying support, an increase can impact your ability to pay for your own basic expenses. For this reason, parents often want to challenge requests for child support modifications.
One way to challenge a request to decrease the amount of child support is to show the court that the alleged change in circumstances is not involuntary. For example, if a parent purposely quits working or works only part-time when they could work full-time, their choice to lower their income should not warrant a child support modification. Proving that the change in circumstances is voluntary can be complicated, however, so you always want an experienced Fort Lauderdale child support lawyer handling your case whether you are requesting or challenging a modification.
How is compliance with child support payments enforced?
Failure to pay child support in Florida can have extremely serious consequences. For those who fail to meet their child support obligations, Florida law imposes harsh penalties, including:
- Suspension of your Florida driver’s license
- Capture of your IRS tax refund
- Capture of lottery winnings of more than $600
- Placement of liens against your land or other property
- Reporting of past due payments to credit reporting agencies
- Placement of a hold on your bank account
- Recovery of missed payments from your bank account
In addition to the above collection methods for unpaid child support, a prosecutor can decide to file criminal charges against individuals who fail to make their required payments. A first offense of non-payment can be charged as a 1st degree misdemeanor, which carries a potential penalty of a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. If a person has at least three prior convictions for non-support, they may face 3rd degree felony charges, which can lead to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Felony charges may also be issued for first-time offenders who owe over $5,000 for non-payment of at least a year. As you can see, the penalties for failing to abide by a child support order can be harsh. For this reason, if you are having trouble making payments, you should discuss the possibility of modifying your order to an affordable amount with a skilled child support lawyer today.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale child support lawyer today
Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC knows that your children’s best interests are the most important aspect of your dissolution of marriage proceedings in Broward, Miami-Dade or Palm Beach County. Our office is close to Broward Hospital, north of Davie Boulevard, and just three blocks from the county courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. For a free initial consultation, call our Fort Lauderdale child support today at 954-800-2362 or contact us online. Our office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and we offer Saturday appointments by request.