The number one mistake regarding child support is the failure to understand that child support is not a requirement imposed by one parent on the other; rather it is a dual obligation imposed on the parents by the State. Amid trying to resolve a heated divorce or a breakup between parents, the mother and father may agree to waive child support or reach their own child support amount without consulting the State guidelines only to find out later that the obligation is unenforceable or insufficient. As the Florida Court of Appeals stated in Lang v. Lang, “[T]he basic right of the minor child to be supported by its parents is not affected by an agreement between the parties with respect to such obligations; children are not chattels (property) whose rights can be bargained away by parents.” Child support can be negotiated but this is done through the informed completion and exchange of child support worksheets based on Florida’s child support guidelines. The agreed upon child support should then be entered into a final judgment by a Circuit Court Judge. Failure to follow these steps puts the parents at risk of being held liable for unpaid child support.
Past due child support payments constitute vested property rights which are not subject to modification. If you are in arrears on child support payments, you must continue to make payments even when the children achieve adulthood. The principle here is that the other parent had to make-up for the child support shortage during the time support was not paid. While the amount of past due child support may not be removed you may find some relief if you are experiencing an economic hardship. You should discuss with an attorney both the limited number of exceptions to relief from past due child support and the possibility of relief from the amount paid monthly.
When you are experiencing economic hardship failure to timely file for modification of child support could cost you thousands. If you need economic relief from a permanent change in your circumstances it is better to bring this before the court sooner rather than wait for years to go by before seeking relief. Modification cases can be difficult and are not guaranteed to provide you the relief you are requesting. Your best strategy is to consult with an attorney before ending or reducing child support on your own. Curtailing child support on your own will be financially disastrous since you are unlikely to be forgiven for the arrears created.
Some parents want to know that the money they are paying for child support is going to a good use, so they pay for support by purchasing clothing and other necessary items directly for the child. This method of providing support puts that parent in jeopardy for paying for large sums of unpaid child support. If you know you have a child support obligation the proper generation of a child support order in accordance with Florida guidelines protects you from future liability.