The following is a series of tips for anyone who is paying a child support obligation.
- Your monthly child support obligation can decrease. The child support amount ordered by the court at the outset is not necessarily set in stone; a modification of your child support obligation may be possible if you can prove a substantial change in circumstances as it is related to your income. Common examples of this can be a loss of work, a decrease in your pay rate, sickness or disability. Any significant financial change in your income that is not your fault can be used to modify your child support obligation.
- Your monthly child support obligation can also be increased if your financial circumstances substantially improve. If this occurs, you can face a petition to increase your child support obligation. Often this is called an upward modification of child support and just like above, can only occur if there has been a substantial change in circumstances that increased your income.
- An increase in the amount of timesharing you get with your child may impact your obligation. In Florida in most circumstances, anything over 20% of the overnights with your child can reduce your child support obligation. Therefore, if your custody or visitation has increased and you are providing, food, clothing and other necessities on an increased basis, your child support obligation may decrease. In many cases, a parent may be paying child support and have no court order for any timesharing with the child. Establishing a timesharing schedule through the court will often decrease your obligation.
- Always get a receipt for any payment you make to your ex and make sure it is labeled receipt of child support. Do this even if child support is not court ordered yet. If you cannot be around your ex and mail a check, then memo it for child support. Failing to take these steps may mean that the court sees the payments as gifts and not child support. In many cases failure to do this means you may end up paying twice.
- Child support isn’t forever. It may seem like you will be writing that check to your ex every month for the rest of your life, but in reality, child support is generally cut off once the child reaches age 18, however if your child is in High School and age 19 you will be required to pay until the child graduates. Failing to meet this extended obligation can lead to arrearages.
- College costs are voluntary parenting choices. In Florida, a judge cannot make you pay child support once the child reaches the age of majority and graduates high school, as discussed above. So be careful if you chose to obligate yourself to pay for college in a marital settlement agreement.
- Child support obligations aren't set in stone. You might be able to lower your child support if your children are of an age where daycare and after school care is no longer needed, and your child support was calculated with those expenses. Also, if your spouse has received a substantial increase in her pay, then you might be eligible for a reduction based on their increase in income. And, if you have had to pay for health insurance for the minor child, then that expense is one that can lead to a reduction in your child support obligation.