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Child Support in Polk County, Florida
In many countries, child support or child maintenance is the ongoing obligation for a periodic payment made by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent, caregiver or guardian, for the care and support of children of a relationship or marriage that has been terminated. In family law, child support is often arranged as part of a divorce, dissolution, annulment, determination of parentage or dissolution of a civil union and may supplement alimony (spousal support) arrangements.

Legal Theory
Child support is based on the policy that parents are obligated to pay for the support of their children, even when the children are not living with both biological parents. Though courts typically permit visitation rights to non-custodial parents, in such separations one parent is often awarded primary residential custody of the children. In such cases, the other parent still remains obligated to pay a proportion of the costs involved in raising the child. Child support may also be ordered to be paid by one parent to another when both parents are custodial parents and they share the child raising
responsibilities. In rare cases, a parent with sole custody of his or her children may be ordered to pay child support to the noncustodial parent to support the children while they are in the care of that parent.

These costs are still legally obligatory, even when the paying parent has been legally limited or
prevented by the other parent from participating in or making decisions involving the upbringing of the child or children. It is also important to note the custodial parent is expected to pay a percentage of the costs incurred raising a child, even if a non-custodial parent has been ordered to make child support payments. In Massachusetts, for example [1], it is the responsibility of the custodial parent alone to pay the first $100 in all uninsured medical costs for each child, per year. Only then will the courts consider authorizing child-support money from a non-custodial parent to be used for said costs.

In most jurisdictions there is no need for the parents to be married, and only paternity and/or maternity (filiation) need to be demonstrated for a child support obligation to be found by a competent court. Child support may also operate through the principle of estoppel where a de facto parent that is in loco parentis for a sufficient time to establish a permanent parental relationship with the child or children. In many states the principle of estoppel can be used to require a person to pay child support even if the assumption of a parental relationship was the result of a fraudulent misrepresentation of paternity by the mother. (See Paternity fraud).

Different jurisdictions
In very few jurisdictions the privilege of visitation (or access) is tied to child support. If the custodial parent refuses to allow the non-custodial parent visitation with the child, the non-custodial parent can petition the court to temporarily stop support payments. In most jurisdictions the two rights and obligations are completely separate and individually enforceable as some jurisdictions view the withholding of support as punishing the child, not the parent, and in such cases the court may order additional visitation to the non-custodial parent. Visitation is a limited form of custody.

Child support laws vary around the world. Some jurisdictions sort the arrangements out directly
between the parents. Others involve the state collecting child support payments as though it were a tax. In the United States some non-custodial parents claim there is no accountability on the part of the custodial parent regarding how child support payments are spent and accuse the custodial parent of spending support money on non-child related expenses. Depending on the jurisdiction, a custodial parent might legally be required to account for how child support money is spent. In the United States, 10 states (Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington) allow courts to demand an accounting from custodial parent on how child support dollars are spent. Additionally, Alabama courts have authorized such accounting under certain specific circumstances. Despite this, some non-custodial parents in such situations still view their only recourse lies in petitioning the court for a change of custody.

Courts have held that it is acceptable for child support payments to be used to indirectly benefit the custodial parent. For example, child support monies may be used to heat the child’s residence, even if this means that other people also benefit from living in a heated home.

Determining Child Support in Florida
Florida, like many other states, uses guidelines in order to establish a party’s child support obligation. Florida Statute 61.30 requires guidelines to be used in establishing new child support obligations or modifying child support in a Florida court. The Florida guidelines takes into consideration all income and earnings of both parents, as well as health care and child care needs. These numbers are placed into a worksheet to obtain a party’s child support obligation. (To calculate child support see www.alllaw.com/calculators/Childsupport/florida/).

The Court may deviate from the guidelines if there is a written finding in the court record that the guidelines in the particular case would be inappropriate. The finding must include the amount of support that would have been required under the guidelines and a reason why the order varies.

Obtaining Child Support
Paying child support is a tremendous responsibility. The payments that are made are distributed to the custodial parents to ensure that their children have what they need to live a comfortable life. Child support laws differ from state to state, but in all regions and jurisdictions, non-custodial parents must pay according to the support order or face legal consequences.

In divorce cases, child support payments may be determined as part of the divorce settlement, along with other issues, such as alimony, custody and visitation. In other cases, there are several steps that must be undertaken to receive court-ordered child support. Some custodial parents may hire lawyers to oversee their child support cases for them; others may file their own applications in their local courthouses.

The custodial parent, or his or her attorney, must file an application to have the child support case heard by the court. The applications vary from state to state, but generally collect identifying information about both the custodial and non-custodial parents, including their names, social security numbers and dates of birth. Court fees vary from state to state, but can cost up to $25 USD. If the custodial parent is receiving any type of assistance from the state or federal government, the application fees may be waived.

Before the case can proceed, the non-custodial parent must be physically located. If the non-custodial parent’s social security number is known, he or she may be located through employment, banking or tax records. Other non-custodial parents are found through information provided by family or friends. Private investigators and “people finder” databases can also be used to locate non-custodial parents.

Once the non-custodial parent is located, he or she will be visited by a local sheriff, police officer or process server and served with a court summons. The summons informs the non-custodial parent that she or he is being sued for child support. Once served, the non-custodial parent must attend a mandatory court hearing to determine if he or she is responsible for child support payments.

If a non-custodial parent denies fathering the child, or if he is not listed on the child’s birth certificate, the court will order a paternity test to establish paternity before proceeding with the child support hearing. Once the identity of the father is confirmed through DNA testing, the child’s birth certificate may be amended to include the father’s name. The father may also acknowledge paternity by signing a statutory declaration of acknowledgement form.

After the responsibility for child support is established and questions of paternity have been answered to the court’s satisfaction, the court will order the non-custodial parent to make timely child support payments.

In addition to monetary payments, non-custodial parents may be ordered to add their children to their health insurance plans. In some states both parents are responsible for providing medical insurance for the child/children. If both parents possess health coverage, the child may be added to the more beneficial plan, or use one to supplement the other. If a non-custodial parent is ordered to pay health benefits for the child/children, it will automatically be garnished for their wages. Non-custodial parents in the armed forces may also be requested to apply for dependents’ cards for military benefits and health coverage for their children.

Many American universities also consider non-custodial parents to be partially responsible for paying college costs, and will consider their income in their financial aid determinations. In certain states, non-custodial parents may be ordered by the court to assist with these expenses. [2]

The age at which child support payments end differs by court order and by state. In some jurisdictions, payments may cease when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last. In other states, or under other court orders, non-custodial parents may be responsible for payments until the age of 19 or 21. If a child seeks legal emancipation support may also be terminated. If the non-custodial parent owes back child support, he or she must continue to make payments until the debt is satisfied, regardless of the age of the child.

United States
Child support in the United States at the Federal level is the responsibility of the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services, there is an over-arching framework of federal legislation (title IV-D of the Social Security Act) and regulation within which the states must operate if they wish to receive federal funding. States may also receive additional financial “incentive” payments for establishing paternity, or establishing or modifying child support orders. Although the federal child support program in the United States traces its origins to a congressional concern for recouping from absent parents some of the cash assistance paid to custodial parents, total U.S. child support collections in 2005 totaled $23 billion, most of which was paid to families not on public assistance.

Each state is responsible for developing a child support program child support that complies with federal requirements, including a guidelines method of calculating child support. Most states have their own “Child Support Guidelines worksheet” used by local courts and state Child Support Enforcement Offices to determine a “standard calculation” of child support. Courts may deviate from this standard calculation in particular cases.

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act addresses the interaction of varying State legislation and regulations to ensure that only one state has the power to impose or modify child support at any one time, providing:

  • Reciprocal recognition of orders between states
  • Enforcement of child support across state lines
  • Conflict of laws and orders awarded by different states.

Particular issues of conflict are further discussed in the Child support in the United States article regarding conflict of laws for the states of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia and Maryland.

Major Federal Child Support Enforcement Laws

1975 – Social Security Act, Title IV, Section D
1984 – Child Support Amendments
1988 – Family Support Act
1992 – Child Support Recovery Act
1993 – Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
1994 – Full Faith and Credit Act
1996 – Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act
1998 – Dead Beat Parents Punishment Act
2000 – Non-custodial Parent Federal Employee Health Insurance Requirement for Children

“Dead-beat” parents
Non-custodial parents who avoid their child support obligations are often termed dead-beat parents. The typical non-custodial parent is the father, thus the common reference to “deadbeat dads”. ” While “dead-beat” is a descriptive term used often in the media and by child support advocacy groups, it is not the legal term used to describe non-paying parents. Child support agencies typically describe clients as being in compliance, not in compliance or criminally non compliant. Compliance is judged by the paying party’s performance in meeting the terms of the child support court order.

The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 68% of child support cases had arrears owed in 2003 (a figure up from 53% in 1999). Many of these arrearage cases are due to administrative practices such as imputing income to parents where it does not exist and issuing default orders of support. Some non-custodial parents claim their payments are too high. According to one study 38% of Illinois non-custodial parents not paying child-support said they lacked the money to pay. Twenty-three percent used non-payment as a means of protesting a lack of visitation rights. Fourteen percent complained of no accountability over the spending of their child support money, while 13% said they didn’t want their child(ren), and 12% denied parentage. Additionally, some non-custodial parents who have been subject to acrimonious divorces often see these payments as unfair and excessive.

If the non-custodial parent refuses to remit the court-ordered child support payments, the court may take one or several different actions. Non-payment of child support can result in wage or tax refund garnishment, suspension of drivers’, professional and recreational licenses, inability to apply for or renew a U.S. passport, and, sometimes, federal prosecution.

Child support and welfare
A major impetus to collection of child support in many places is recovery of welfare expenditure. A resident or custodial parent receiving public assistance, as in the US Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), is required to assign his or her right to child support to the Department of Welfare before cash assistance is received. Another common requirement of welfare benefits in some jurisdictions is that the custodial parent must pursue child support from the non-custodial parent.

Court Services
Some opponents of child support claim that requiring non-custodial parents to pay child-support creates jobs to sustain the divorce industry. They point out that in the US family court judges earn $90,000 to $160,000 per year (cf. p. 1 table) and each judge requires a staff. One association claims the industry consists of “60,000 professionals includes line/managerial/executive child support staff; state and local agencies; judges; court masters; hearing officers; government and private attorneys; social workers; advocates; corporations that “partner” with government to provide child support services and private collection agencies.” An industry of 60,000 professionals would comprise less than one-twentieth of a percent of the United State’s 147.3 million-person workforce.

In the United States, state courts typically maintain a child support division – essentially an accounting department recording amounts owed and paid. Some maintain that because the county clerks responsible for record keeping are not certified accountants, inaccuracies concerning child support payments are common. Some people also claim that outside auditors do not monitor the accuracy of child support reports. In many counties, like Illinois’ Cook and Kane counties, the division audits themselves. However other jurisdictions adopt different methods – for example, in 2003 independent auditors reviewed and audited the Child Support Enforcement Agency of Hawaii. The state of Texas has also conducted such an independent audit. The Clark County, Nevada district attorney’s office has also been independently audited (in 2003) regarding child support payment collections. And also in 2003, the state of Maryland recommended outside audits on its five metro child support enforcement operations.

References
The source of this information is from wikipedia.org Also from the Department of Revenue Website for Florida www.dor.myflorida.com/dor/childsupport/guidelines.html

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) 42 U.S.Code §602a(1)& (2)