Child support is money paid from one parent to another to help support their mutual children in cases where the parents do not reside together.
Each state sets rules about how child support is calculated, but generally, the parent with the higher income pays monthly support to the other parent. Child support can be a point of contention between parents. Understanding these five basic facts about how support works can alleviate some of those concerns.
1. Money – Not Parenting Time – Determines Amount
A common misconception is that if each parent spends equal amounts of time with the children, the child support zeros out in a “you pay for their needs when you have them, and I pay for their needs when I have them”, mentality. All states, including Florida, calculate support by income. This inevitably means one parent will pay the other.
Most states do factor in the amount of time the support-paying parent spends with the children when determining what amount to order. For example, two neighboring, non-custodial parents have identical incomes. One parent sees the children for a weekend each month. The other parent has the children every other week, year-round. The first parent’s child support order will be for a higher amount than the second parent’s order, even though their incomes are identical. The same applies when parents share joint custody.
2. It Will Usually Fall Short of the Need
Stories abound of parents who pay child-support, grumbling that their ex lives off the support payments, however, in most cases, child support does not cover all of the child’s expenses each month.
When you factor in clothes, shelter, food, power, water, dance classes, karate, gas to get to school and back, cell phone bills and all the other things involved in the average child’s life, the support check is not enough. The receiving parent is expected to make up the difference and make sure the children have what they need.
3. It Doesn’t Have to be Spent on the Children
It can be frustrating for the paying parent to see the receiving parent show up in a new car or take an expensive vacation. An assumption might be made that the money is not being used for the children at all. As long as the children’s life needs are being met, the receiving parent does not have to account for where the money goes.
The parent who has the children the most takes care of the children’s needs including basic living expenses as well as things like gifts for birthday parties, hair cuts and other expenses. When the child support comes in that money is reimbursing a portion of those previously spent funds from the month beforehand.
4. Child Support is Not Tax Deductible
Child support does not count as income in either direction. This means that the paying parent cannot deduct if from his or her income taxes. It also means the receiving parent does not have to claim it as income for the purpose of income tax obligations.
5. Visitation and Child Support do Not Mix
If the parent ordered to pay child support does not fulfill that obligation, the receiving parent does not have the right to withhold visits with the children. Conversely, if the receiving parent is not being given the court ordered parenting time with the children, it does not cancel the ongoing support obligation. The two are separate issues to be handled through the courts.
Not paying child support is a serious matter. Each state sets the standard by which parents ordered to pay and do not suffer the consequences. Possible consequences to a parent who fails to pay child support include:
- Driver license revocation
- Professional license revocation (pilot, medical doctor, dentist, etc.)
- A lien placed on any real property
- Arrest and incarceration
- Wage garnishments
- Intercepted tax refund checks
- Seizing lottery winnings, insurance settlements and other unanticipated windfalls.
Every state has its own laws when it comes to child support services but due to modern technology, all of the states work in conjunction with each other to ensure that it get paid.
A parent who works hard at avoiding the obligation. For these parents, the punishment can be harsh and include incarceration.