Child support is an invaluable tool for parents who don’t live together. These orders ensure parents take responsibility for supporting their offspring until they are legal adults. However, there are limits on how these funds can be used. Violating Florida’s rules on using child support payments can lead to legal complications.
Whether you currently receive support payments or want to pursue an order, you must understand Florida laws on the subject to ensure you follow the letter of the law. Keep reading to learn why child support exists, what it is intended to accomplish, and how the funds can be used.
Understanding Florida Child Support Laws
The fundamental goal of these orders is to ensure that both parents financially provide for their offspring. An order requires the higher-earning parent to make monthly payments to the lower-earning custodial parent. These funds are intended to be used for the children’s benefit.
The amount is typically determined by the Florida Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines require judges to consider the following factors when deciding who will be required to pay support and how much to order:
- Income of both parents: The court looks at the combined income of the parents as well as what each parent earns individually per month to determine the percentage of responsibility each parent has for supporting their offspring.
- The costs of the child: Florida has a table of standard needs for children per month. It uses this table to determine the minimum need across both parents, which is multiplied by the percentage of responsibility of each parent.
- The additional needs of the child: If children have additional needs, such as disabilities or other elevated medical expenses, the judge may exceed the minimum guidelines to ensure the lower-earning parent has the funds to cover their care.
- Time spent with each parent: Finally, the court looks at the percentage of overnight stays the children have with both parents. This percentage is multiplied by the other parent’s financial obligation to determine the total amount that should be transferred from one party to the other.
This calculation can become quite complicated. Judges may use calculators to determine how much support to order. As such, working with an experienced attorney is essential if you want to receive a fair order.
It is important to note that gender is not considered during this process. Mothers are not more likely to an order than fathers. Relative income, their needs, and the time spent with each parent are all that matters.
What Can Child Support Be Used For?
Once you begin receiving the funds, you may and must start using them to care for your children. Florida states that child support should be used for expenses related to your offspring, such as:
- Housing: You can use the payments to afford a residence that offers your children a better place to grow up, such as a location in a safer neighborhood or a home where everyone can have their own room.
- Food: Children eat a lot, so these funds can be used to cover the additional food costs.
- Clothing: You may use the funds to buy new clothing for your offspring as they grow.
- Education: If your kids attend a private school, have to buy school supplies, or need to pay for field trips, you can pay for it with the funds.
- Medical expenses: Any medical care your children need can and should be paid for with these funds.
- Hobbies, entertainment, and other activities: A good childhood should also involve leisure. You can spend the money on supplies and classes for your children’s hobbies, taking them on vacation, or otherwise entertaining them.
What Can’t Child Support Be Used For?
There are restrictions on how you can use ordered funds. If you receive child support and do not address your children’s needs, you are misusing those funds under Florida law.
For instance, suppose your children need supplies for school. If you refuse to buy those supplies while purchasing luxury items for yourself, the court may determine that you’re misusing the funds for your own gain. Florida considers child support misuse a form of abuse, potentially opening you up to criminal charges.
Pursue the Child Support You Need with Bergman Family Law
Florida’s laws regarding child support are complex. If you plan to request this support in the future, you should talk to an experienced family law attorney. The expert lawyers at Bergman Family Law can walk you through Florida’s laws on the subject and help you pursue the money you need to raise your children in a happy and healthy home.