Child support is the money paid by each parent to contribute to a child's normal expenditures. When parents share custody, each party may be required to pay for certain expenses. When one parent is the primary custodian, however, the noncustodial parent typically pays child support directly to the custodial parent. While the custodial parent may choose not to take a non-paying parent to court over child support, child support cannot legally be waived because it is considered a right of the child, not the parent.
Child Support Basics
In Florida, child support obligations are calculated according to each parent's gross income less medical and other extraordinary expenses. Each parent must pay a portion of the child's educational, medical and other recurring expenses. When one parent has primary custody of the child, that parent's support obligation is covered by paying for the child's expenses directly, while the non-custodial parent must pay child support to the custodial parent. Child support is considered a right of the child and Florida law requires non-custodial parents to pay.
Child Support Settlement
Parents have the option to reach a child support agreement on their own. A judge must still sign off on the settlement, but parents may be able to pay less child support if they reach a settlement rather than relying on the state's child support calculations. If one parent is having financial difficulties, settlement can minimize legal costs and may include provisions for increased support when the hardship ceases.
Child Support Modification
Parents may petition the court to modify their child support obligation when their financial situation or the needs of the child change. For example, if a child switches from private to public school, this might be grounds for modified child support. Parents should file a petition for child support modification in the same court where the original child support order was issued. When parents both agree that child support should be modified, they may sign a joint petition, increasing the judge's likelihood of granting the reduction.
In most cases, it is the custodial parent who enforces child support orders by reporting non-payment to the court or a state agency. Custodial parents can choose not to do this if the non-custodial parent is not paying child support; however, this does not legally waive child support and is not a practice that can be sanctioned by the court. Further, custodial parents who seek government benefits, such as welfare or food stamps, may be required to name the child's father and participate in child support enforcement actions. Not accepting child support may eliminate eligibility for these benefits.