Recent changes in state legislation have altered Florida Child Support laws and increased accessibility for parents and children. However, many requirements have remained the same. To ensure that every child support arrangement is legally accurate and provides the necessary means for providing the child with proper care, parents must understand all applicable legal requirements. Understanding child support laws in Florida will guarantee that children receive support at the time of the arrangement and as they continue to grow and their needs change.
Florida Child Support Laws: The Basics
In Florida, parents must maintain their child(ren) through financial support until their child(ren) turns eighteen years old. Legally, the financial support one parent gives another parent to care for the child is known as child support. The purpose of child support is to provide adequate financial means for the costs related to raising a child, such as: providing food, shelter, water, and other necessary means. Additionally, Florida requires that all child support arrangements include a stipulation that allocates a portion of each child support payment toward the cost of the child’s health insurance.
Which Parent is Legally Required to Pay Child Support?
Per state law, child support is the uncontested obligation of every parent in Florida. Depending on existing custody arrangements, financial needs, and abilities, either parent may be responsible for child support. The non-custodial parent most often pays child support following a separation eliminating a dual-income home. A non-custodial parent is a parent who does not have primary custody of the child(ren). Oppositely, a custodial parent is a parent who retains primary custody of the child(ren). However, it is also possible that parents evenly split custody of their child. In this instance, the child custody agreement helps determine the division of child support payments. Each parent will be required to pay a court-ordered amount based on the number of nights the child is in their physical custody, alongside each parent’s financial obligations to the child(ren).
Florida state guidelines help determine the amount of child support a parent must pay. The State of Florida developed these guidelines through careful analysis and consideration of each parent’s income, the basic needs of the child(ren), the level of care each parent provides, and the overall health and well-being of the child. Generally, Florida judges must adhere to these guidelines as strictly as possible. However, unique instances require an increase or decrease in child support payment amounts regardless of what is indicated by state guidelines. In these instances, an involved variable or circumstance commonly increases the cost of providing care for the child(ren), such as health conditions.
One can find a detailed list of the guidelines and stipulations used in Florida to determine child support payment amounts by visiting the Florida State Senate Website or by clicking here.
Florida Child Support Laws for Unmarried Parents
Because the state of Florida recognizes child support as an unavoidable obligation of both the mother and father, establishing a child support order is procedurally straightforward. However, the initial process and natural arrangement look slightly different for unmarried parents than for divorcing parents. Legally, the main difference between establishing a child support order for unmarried parents is the establishment of legal paternity. If a guardian proves paternity before filing for a child support order, then unmarried parents will follow the same procedure as divorcing parents.
Suppose legal paternity has not been shown before filing for a child support order. In that case, one must establish paternity before the court will recognize the biological father and include him in the child support filing process. This procedural difference exists because, like many other U.S. States, Florida automatically grants the un-wed biological mother sole physical and legal custody of the child. Another key procedural difference in establishing child support for un- wed parents in Florida is the need for biological fathers to prove their legal paternity before they are legally able to seek custody and visitation rights. Additionally, unmarried parents filing for child support must provide the court with both the proof of paternity and a detailed parenting plan.
Further, unmarried parents who are attempting to establish a child support order should be aware of the following:
- In Florida, unwed biological mothers automatically receive full parental rights to their child upon birth.
- Florida state law allows both unmarried parents the opportunity to share physical and legal custody of their child evenly.
- Like divorcing parents, unmarried parents who have legally established paternity may receive the legal title of parent.
For an unwed biological father to have parental rights to their child, they must establish paternity through a legitimate DNA test. DNA Tests can either be part of a court order or one may take it voluntarily. However, they are necessary for securing parental rights regardless of motive. If the unwed parents enter marriage during the process of establishing a child support order or custody arrangement, a DNA Test is no longer necessary to establish paternity. This is because Florida recognizes marriage as a legal path to legitimizing a child’s relation to their father.
Do Child Support Responsibilities in Florida Automatically End at 18?
According to state legislation, child support orders do not cease when the child turns eighteen. Instead, termination occurs according to the child(ren)’s education status as a high school graduate or on the date of their nineteenth birthday. State regulations terminate child support in the following instances:
- If the child is eighteen, child support ends on:
- Their eighteenth birthday if they have graduated before this date.
- Following their high school graduation if their eighteenth birthday occurs first.
- If the child is on track to graduate high school following their nineteenth birthday, the child support ends following graduation.
- However, if the child is not on track to graduate high school shortly after their nineteenth birthday, termination occurs on their nineteenth birthday.