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FAQs: Paying Child Support in Florida

FAQs: Paying Child Support in Florida

paying child support

In this article, we’ll break down:

Establishing a child support order is just the beginning of the long process of navigating the family court system after a divorce. As life changes, your support needs and obligations are also likely to change. And when circumstances like paternal rights, paternity, or the inability to pay support enter the picture, you need to understand the legal implications of your situation to protect yourself and your child.

If you’re struggling to pay child support in Florida or have questions about whether you owe support to your child, you have options. Here are the most frequently asked questions about paying child support in Florida.

Q. How Can I Avoid Paying Child Support in Florida?

A. The answer depends on a multitude of circumstances. In most cases, no; you cannot avoid paying child support. That’s because parents have a moral and legal obligation to financially support their minor children in Florida. Child support payments are, therefore, required to ensure that each parent is adequately caring for their child.

Exceptions may be made by the court if the parent providing support can’t afford their payments due to a job loss or other factor out of their control. The court can impute income if that parent is no longer employed or, in some cases, underemployed. Imputation cases are usually complicated and the parent paying support must typically show that they’ve tried to find sufficient employment.

Q. How Can I Get Out of Paying Child Support in Arrears in Florida?

A. Even if your child support order ends because your child reaches majority, you’re still on the hook to pay the arrearage. There’s no statute of limitations in Florida for child support. The court still requires that you pay all the support you owe to your child.

If, however, you believe the arrearages are incorrect and that you don’t owe that additional child support, you can petition the court or the Florida Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement to remove those payments from your obligation.

Q. Will My Parental Rights be Forfeited if I Don’t Pay Child Support?

A. No. Your parental rights are separate from your obligation to pay child support. A failure to pay child support should not impact your custody arrangement or visitation with your child.

The court can impose stiff penalties for failing to pay child support, though, including seizing your property and selling it to pay the support you owe. Losing your home could impact your child custody order.

Q. Can I Go to Jail for Not Paying Child Support?

A. Yes. In Florida, child support is court ordered and the failure to pay court-ordered support puts you in contempt of court. The penalty can be as severe as up to one year of jail time.

The court can also issue a fine, suspend your driver’s license, seize your income tax refunds, withhold earnings, seize your property, and issue other financial penalties. A court may also decide to place a lien on a property you own or report the failure to pay to credit agencies and potentially damage your credit.

Q. Is Not Paying Child Support a Felony?

A. Failing to pay child support can result in a felony charge if one of the following instances occurs:

  1. You are four months behind in your payments with over $2,500 in past-due support;

OR

  • You’ve previously been convicted for not paying child support;

OR

  • You attempted to leave Florida to avoid paying your support obligation.

A. Yes, but only under certain circumstances. Child support is court ordered and, therefore, can only either be modified or terminated by a judge. To legally stop paying child support, a significant circumstance would need to occur to terminate the support order, including:

Termination of Parental Rights

In most cases, if your parental rights are terminated then so is your child support obligation.

Adoption

If your child is adopted by a non-biological child and you give up your rights as the child’s parent, you’ll no longer be obligated to support your child. Be aware, though, that any past-due child support payments are not forgiven even when child support is terminated.

Emancipation

In most cases, when your child reaches majority – 18 years of age in Florida – your legal obligation to provide child support ends. A child can reach majority before 18 if they join the military, get married, or become able to support themselves. There are exceptions where child support does not end at majority including when a minor child is disabled and unable to support themselves once they reach adulthood.

Disestablishment of Paternity

Fathers can attempt to disestablish paternity if they believe they’re paying child support for a child who is not biologically their own. If you legally disestablish paternity, you will most likely terminate your child support order. You may still be responsible for any past-due child support payments even if the child is not biologically yours.

There is another way to legally terminate your child support responsibility, and that’s if your ex-spouse agrees to it.

Read more about Terminating Child Support in Florida for additional information about this complex topic.

Q. Can I Claim Child Support on My Taxes?

A. No. Your child support payments aren’t deductible expenses and cannot be claimed on your personal income tax return. Likewise, child support payments aren’t considered taxable income for the parent who receives support.

Q. If I Prove I’m Not the Child’s Biological Father, Do I Still Need to Pay Child Support?

A. If you’re questioning the paternity of the child, successfully disestablishing paternity will dissolve your support responsibility.

Or, if you decide to give up your paternal rights – surrendering all rights and no longer having any say in raising your child – your child support order will dissolve.

Q. I Can’t Afford to Pay for Child Support. Can I Reduce the Amount I Pay Each Month?

A. If you can’t afford to pay for child support based on your income, you can apply to have the monthly amount of support lowered to a payment you can afford. To lower the amount you owe, you’ll need to petition for a modification to the current child support order.

In most cases, a petition to modify the court-ordered payment amount will only be granted if there’s been a substantial change in circumstances, or if it’s in the best interest of your child.

If you can’t afford to pay child support because of a job loss, a reduction in pay, or other substantial reason that the court accepts as reasonable, they may grant your request to modify the order and reduce your support obligation. In most of these cases, you’ll also need to show evidence that you’re looking for employment or for another job that pays more.

Q.  When Can I Stop Paying Child Support?

A. As long as your current child support order is enforceable, you cannot stop paying child support without facing serious legal consequences. In Florida, every support order should include an end date. This is typically the date of majority for your child. In Florida, a child reaches majority on their 18th birthday. There are exceptions with some child support orders ending before or after the child reaches majority.

A child support obligation can only end when one of five significant circumstances occurs:

  • The parent or child passes away
  • The child is adopted
  • You terminate your parental rights
  • The child reaches majority
  • You prove you are not the child’s parent

If you can’t afford to pay child support or have questions about modifying or terminating your child support order, make sure you have a family lawyer on your side. Your family law attorney will help you navigate the child support process and ensure your case is reviewed by the court as soon as possible.

Contact us today for a free family law case evaluation. We’ll listen to your case and explain your rights. When you’re ready to work with a Florida family law and divorce lawyer, fill out the form on our Contact Us page or give us a call at (954) 880-1302.