In the state of Florida, the process of initiating child support is the same regardless of the parents’ marriage status. With that being said, the underlying action may differ; if the parents are married, a divorce action generally accompanies the child support action, and if the parents are not married, a paternity action generally accompanies the divorce action. In either case, the actions are handled together as part of the overall process. Since the overall process of divorce can sometimes take months or even years the custodial parent may obtain a temporary child support order during this time. In Florida, temporary child support hearings are held before judges or magistrates. Magistrates are similar to judges, with the exception that they generally cannot enter orders. Instead, magistrates make recommendations which form the basis upon which judges enter orders. However, in cases dealing solely with child support, the magistrate is considered a ‘hearing officer. Recommended orders made by hearing officers are much closer to judge’s orders. As previously mentioned, in the case in which the custodial parent is receiving state benefits, the state will start the child support action. This usually involves holding an administrative hearing in order to determine the child support.
What Is The Process Of Modifying A Child Support Order?
Once a party is receiving child support, it can be modified at any time by either party (Payor or payee), so long as a ‘substantial change’ is evidenced. A ‘substantial change’ in this sense refers to a change in circumstance to the extent that child support will either increase or decrease by at least fifty dollars per month. Alternatively, a change resulting in an increase or decrease by at least ten percent of the amount being paid monthly would qualify as a ‘substantial change.’
If the receiving parent knows that the paying parent has had a substantial increase in his or her income then the receiving parent may very well ask for an upward modification of child support. Likewise, if the paying parent- through no fault of his or her own- encounters a downward ‘substantial change’ in his or her income, they may ask the court for a downward modification of child support.
In Florida, child support is usually paid until the child has reached eighteen years of age. If the child reaches the age of eighteen and is still enrolled in high school with the reasonable expectation of graduating, child support will be paid until the child’s high school graduation. Under no circumstances will the child support be extended past the child’s nineteenth birthday solely for the purposes of high school. However, if the child will be dependent after his or her eighteenth or nineteenth birthday, the receiving parent can ask the court to extend the child support past the normal time of emancipation. This usually occurs in situations involving children that have physical, mental or psychological disabilities. Theoretically, extensions of this nature could be permanent, depending upon the level of the child’s dependence. The one caveat to this rule is that the action to extend child support must be initiated while child support is still being paid.
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