child support law in florida

Florida Child Support Law

Overview of Child Support


Child Support in Florida is a predictable, common, necessity in all cases where there are minor children. Some states require child support until kids are 21. But in Florida the end date is either 18 or 19 – depending on the high school graduation date.  Florida has very extensive rules, statutes, and calculation tables for child support. There is an entire section of the Florida Dept. of Revenue devoted to the collection and enforcement of child support. And in most Florida counties, there are special judges that consider child support issues – known as Child Support Hearing Officers.  Child support is pretty much the most predictable issue In family law, divorce, and paternity cases. If you have minor children, there will be child support.

Child support is fairly cut and dried but can have complicated and dangerous twists. This is one of the few areas of divorce and family law that intersect with criminal law. One hundred years ago, debtors prisons existed in America. Now they are outlawed. But prison is still a reality in child support collection issues. Case law for Florida child support provides for severe penalties for non-payment of your child support payments.

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How Child Support is Calculated – An Overview


Many attorneys and individuals will tell you the calculation of child support is cut and dried.  True, yet not quite true. There are many twists, turns, and strategic considerations in a support case. The basic method of determining support is to take each parent’s net income and compare them to the Guidelines Table contained in Florida chapter 61.  One frequent misconception is that household expenses matter when calculating child support. In fact, the only thing that matters is your gross income – less a very short list of valid deductions. That list includes things such as taxes, personal health insurance, and other child support judgments.

The area where child support calculation gets tricky is the interaction with the number of overnights each parent has with their child.  If either parent has the child (or children) more than 20% of the annual overnights, the child support calculation changes to an alternate formula. That alternate formula substantially reduces the total support. Also, each additional overnight over the initial 20% reduces child support by a calculated amount.  That one fact cases a great deal of fighting between parents over the division of overnights with the children.

How Alimony Interacts With Child Support


Child support is calculated by the next income after taxes and alimony payments. That causes a great deal of interaction between child support and alimony. Another complication: alimony is tax deductible and child support is not. That causes great complication and offers great opportunities to anyone negotiating alimony and child support. The interaction is complex and requires fairly sophisticated software to analyze. Another twist of child support and alimony: in temporary alimony situations, a person may file to modify child support when alimony ends. Anyone crafting an agreement containing both child support and alimony must take care to anticipate possible future changes. An attorney can design language to anticipate and control future concerns.


Modification of Child Support


Child support is always modifiable and enforceable. The default rule in Florida is that a child support case can be opened for modification if the end result will be change of $50 or 15% (whichever is larger) in the previous support amount.  The process to modify child support is fairly complex and is not a one-day activity.  Enforcement of child support is a bit more simple and involves one short court hearing. Courts take child support obligation seriously and there are serious consequences for non-payment.  If your income recently changed and you cannot afford to pay at the current level – it is absolutely urgent that you immediately file for modification. Any later changes become effective back to the date you filed your modification petition.

Common Questions and Answers About Child Support


I have very high personal expenses. Will this reduce my child support?

Probably not. There are very few valid deduction from income for a child support calculation.


Does my new spouse’s income count for a child support case or modification?

Technically the Florida statutes allow consideration of another person’s income. But that is rare in practical terms. Normally you do not need to worry about that issue.


Are child support payments tax deductible?

Not under current IRS rules. There is no tax deduction for child support. And the person receiving support does not need to claim it as income.


What if I cannot afford to live with the current amount of child support?

In rare situations you may petition the court for a Downward Deviation from Guidelines. But   for the most part, the system is fairly callous toward this type of argument.

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  • floridamom

    My ex husband has agreed to turn over custody of our child to me but only if I agree that he doesn’t have to pay child support. If I agree to it, can he still be ordered to pay child support. I am on SSDI and my son receives benefits as well. My ex has my son on medicaid right now due to my son’s major hip problems. Since he is on medicaid, does the state go after him for child support.

    Thank you.

    • HowardIken

      Some judges will not allow a no-child support agreement – and end up ordering support regardless of the text of the agreement. Occasionally some judges will allow it. If you have just signed up for benefits the Florida Dept of Revenue child support enforcement will get involved. If you have been on benefits for a while the DOR may or may not act soon – usually they are very slow.

  • fladad

    As a result of the new 2010 child support guidelines, the 61.30 Florida Statute states:

    (b) The guidelines may provide the basis for proving a substantial change in circumstances upon which a modification of an existing order may be granted. However, the difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines shall be at least 15 percent or $50, whichever amount is greater, before the court may find that the guidelines provide a substantial change in circumstances.

    I am not sure what this means – my child support amount was set in 2009 – am I eligible for modification under the new guidelines? Does this new law from 2010 constitute a change in circumstance which would trigger modification if the difference is more than 15% or $50? I have my children 38.5% of time. Thank you.

    • HowardIken

      That is the way the statute appears to read. However the issue has been fought over in many courts. I have had the experience where a judge ruled there must be other changes (such as income), other than just the change in the statute. But I am sure certain judges will allow a modification. Without knowing more about your situation – I would say it is worth a try.

      • fladad

        I know my ex-wife has had a slight increase in income, but not sure if that in itself would satisfy the $50 or 15% requirement. Not sure I want to roll the dice in front of the judge if he, again, has complete discretion – meaning complete uncertainty for me.

        Thank you very much for your response!

        • HowardIken

          Attorney fees and costs are always something to consider. But if there will not be much of that (or no attorney), a roll of the dice is not much of a risk.

          • fladad

            I appreciate your input, I should certainly look into it. And yes, attorney fees are my greatest concern, considering that the judge could go either way. In my case though, the CS reduction could be very significant under 2010 guidelines, so it is worth looking into. Do you think I should try to find out how my particular judge has ruled on this since 2010?

            Thank you again!

          • HowardIken

            That is a slightly obscure subject and you will need to speak to a lot of different attorneys. If your modification is not supportable, you can always dismiss your modification case immediately after receiving the other side’s financial info.

          • fladad

            I meant I could try to find out how he has ruled since 2010 on whether these new guidelines from 2010 constitute a change of circumstances in itself, as the statute appears to read. Wouldn’t he have to be consistent in the way he rules on that and not change it from case to case? He either allows it or not? Is my logiv wrong? Thank you again.

          • HowardIken

            If you are able to find that out for a certain judge – that would be a good indicator. Trial judges tend to be consistent – but there is no absolute rule on that. Appellate courts are more consistent.

          • fladad

            Great, thank you!

  • Paul Burt

    Consider, the only definitive federally funded study ever conducted on the subject of child support showed that when employed, men pay between 83 and 91% of all court ordered child support and that they do so without intervention of any kind. But, when these figures became apparent, Wayne Stanton, then head of the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement in D.C. had the study DISCONTINUED! In fact, Stanton’s office demanded a formal Freedom of Information Act Submission merely to retrieve the study’s data.
    Grasping this, makes it easy to understand the incentive for the State and County Gestapo-like father-hating child support collection tactics; they’re fueled by a ravenous forty+ year pursuit of federal subsidies; it has nothing whatsoever to do with the mythical “best interest of the child“. Quotas the State’s must meet and maintain in their child support collection figures – in order to continue receiving these federal subsidies for their case management and child support collection efforts – are at the heart of the custody disparity and what tax payers remain – for the most part – ignorant of. Not to be lost, we‘re talking about Form 1040 of millions of Americans who unknowingly have supported these cash cows for decades.
    In California alone, we have over 8,000 men paying child support for children that DNA evidence has proven they didn’t father; why? Again, quota! If the Golden State were to emancipate these men from this assigned – not incurred – debt, the State risks losing the $504 million Federal Dollars it is scheduled to receive during the current 2012/2013 fiscal year for its child support collection and case management efforts; this is an annual subsidy, by the way. Not incidentally, these federal funds NEVER make their way into the lives of children of divorce or impoverished kids, instead financing the salaries, medical benefits, paid vacation time, and pensions of those employed by – or retired from – the child support collection industry. In the United States, divorce and custody comprise OVER HALF of all civil litigation, constituting the cash cow of the judiciary, and bringing employment and earnings to a host of public and private officials, including counselors, child support collection agents, mediators, psychologists, law enforcement officers, and countless others in both public and private sectors, all in the name of helping “troubled children”.
    If the court were remotely CLOSE to parity in the granting of primary physical custody, our society – and our children – would be far better off! When more people come to know that in the U.S. virtually every major personal and social pathology can be traced to fatherlessness more than to any other single factor; Violent crime, substance abuse, unwed pregnancy, truancy, suicide, and more, perhaps our society will recover. Until then, know that fatherlessness far surpasses both poverty and race as a predictor of social deviance.

  • What to do….

    My husbands child support order was done when the 3 children were all minors. Now one is 19 and on her own, the second one is 17 and pregnant and will be 18 soon, and the third child is 13. Can he request a modification? And when should that be done.

    Thank you.

    • HowardIken

      I just noticed this old comment. Sorry for the delay. Yes, now is the time to file a modification. The two of you can sign a joint stipulation. You may find it convenient to use an attorney. An attorney could mail it in to the judge for signature.

  • What to do….

    I forgot to add that his ex says she is willing to sign a modification agreement to lower the amount paid to her, I don’t know if there is a form for that, or how do we go about informing the courts.

    thanks again

  • Michael in Milton

    My child support agreement states, I shall pay child support until the minor children reach the age of (18), marry, die, or graduate from high school. My 17 year old daughter has not been in a real high school in 2 years and is now getting ready for her GED. If she gets her GED can I ask the courts to cease her child support payments. Do you feel if any of the following are reached before she is 18 the CD should stop? It shouldn’t be either/or, it should be one or the other correct? Thank you for your time.

    • HowardIken

      Normally you cannot terminate support until the 18th birthday. In your case it definitely would be the 18th birthday.

  • Guest

    My final Judgement states that, “After due consideration of the employment of both parties at this time, the time sharing schedule, and the latest Financial Affidavits filed by the parties, neither the Husband nor the Wife will pay child support to the other”. One year later she has filed for a petition for modifcation of child support. No change “substancial change” has occurred. In her petition she merely states that the child support calculator was not used. Is this something that can modify our Final Judgement?

    • HowardIken

      Normally not. There must be a substantial change of circumstances. You cannot take the same exact situation, recalculate, and modify. That would violate the standards laid out by statute and prior court decisions.

  • TP

    I am currently putting together the documents to request a modification of child support, as well as completing a financial affidavit. Why do you need checking account statements and savings account statements for the last year. Can the amount of your savings and checking affect support modification??

    • HowardIken

      Not directly. But those figures can be used to detect hidden income. Also, that info can be used in a fight for attorney fees. Last – it is required by statute.

  • Th

    I went to court in Florida in1988 for child support in the state of Alabama. I ask for a paternity test and the State of Alabama refused the test, when the child was 3yrs, and it was dismissed without prejudice. The case was then closed by the state of Florida. In 2008 Alabama brought it back up and there was no previous actions taken until 2008. Do they have the right to deny my rights to a paternity test and can it be brought back to court 20 years later, after the child has passed the age of emancipation and is now 27 years old and a grown man? Do I have any rights to fight this and wouldn’t this be a violation of my civil rights? Thanks

    • HowardIken

      If your case was in Florida I would say it is long over – and to forget about it. But I am not admitted to practice in your original state and can not comment on that.

      • Th

        Thanks, but it has been opened and they are enforcing that I pay the child support.

        • HowardIken

          I understand. In Florida you would not be able to go back that far to modify.

          • Th

            So as a father living in Florida, Alabama could not come back 20 years or more later and have Florida enforce child support on this Issue. Do you have a good lawyer you could recommend that would be able to defend me in this case that would not kill my pocket book? Thanks

          • HowardIken

            If you already owe the amount – pursuant to a previous final judgment – the debt is enforceable. But there are many types of defenses. Unfortunately you will need an Alabama attorney. Sorry, no recommendations are available.

  • michael

    i writing to find if a law was past that state that they can’t suspend my lic for owe just arrears on my child support

    • HowardIken

      No. Sorry. The state is still able to suspend a DL for non-payment of support.

      • michael

        if you no longer owe support because the child turned 18 and all you owe is the arrears amount can they suspend my licence. I do not think i wrote it right earlier. Also can they raise my arrears from one amount too the amount i was paying for support before he turned 18.

        • HowardIken

          If it is the Florida Dept of Revenue Child Support Enforcement you are dealing with, yes – they can still do all of that.

  • Nicole

    I am not married to the father of my child. We have both come to a mutual agreement on child support and I would like to make the agreement legal. How do I get this accomplished prefferably without paying for a lawyer since I’m not in a position to pay one at this time?

    • HowardIken

      You need to file a paternity case in the local court and have a judge sign the agreement. There is no other way to make it enforceable.

  • denise

    My ex husband pays ZERO child support. I make more money than him. I have %70 custody. He earns approx $2000 per month (before taxes and he takes out %10 for his 401K) He pays the children’s insurance (approx $120 per month) I bring home approximately $3900 per month.He does construction “under the table” How does the court “impute income”? for modiification? I have twin 6 year olds.

    • HowardIken

      That is not an automatic process. You must present some proof that would allow the court to impute income. For example, showing his standard of living could not possibly be supported by his documented income.

      • denise

        Thank you. That makes sense. I do have him admitting on video he does side work and I “shouldn’t try to come after the money” and photos of construction debris in his truck…is it all helpful?

        • HowardIken

          Yes. The video would most likely be admissible. Be aware that admission of evidence is a very technical issue. But if you do get everything admitted it would be tremendously valuable.

  • Guest

    why is it when it says applied it doesn’t show in my savings account


    I have a case open with my Ex husband. Its for a dissolutions of Marriage, child support, and custody. Everything was supposed to be a “mutual” agreement until he got up and left the country. He didn’t notify me at all. One day I found out he was in Colombia phone disconnected, left his apartment, quit his job. Now I’m here with no child support, no health insurance for our son and left all responsibilities to me. What can I do at this point. We have a hearing on Sept 26.

    • HowardIken

      You can still go forward with the hearing, get an order, and follow up with an enforcement action. But there is very little chance of recovering money. I assume the state is helping you? They can also file a tax return intercept.

  • elcamino

    Am looking for an attorney who could help me regarding child support that is in arrears. Ex-wife pulled a fast one about 18 years ago. I have supporting documentation showing I was in the home and supporting her and my son upto the age of 9 where at that time she up and took him away with no cause. She applied for and received child support one week after my son was born! She had a PO Box so anything that came regarding child support she hid from me. All I can be told is that the case is to old to investigate, but child support is still after me and I have now lost my license and am not working as I was in a vehicle accident and am going for back surgery next month. Is there anyone out there that can help?

    • HowardIken

      This is a very difficult case. I assume you cannot afford an attorney? Your first option would be to call and apply to legal aid.

  • gopher1

    Does a parent with sole custody (and the other parent has no time sharing rights) relocate a minor child without permission or filing with the court in Florida?

    • HowardIken

      You probably need permission. But under this circumstance permission is likely to happen.

  • Jim

    Hello, I have been divorced for two years, at the time of divorce I agreed to pay child support in excess of the state guidelines. I am financially unable to continue making payments in this amount and would like to know if support modification is an option in my situation. Also is it possible to estimate the attorney fees? Thank You

    • HowardIken

      You normally can modify if your income has changed. We have free consultations, and that is the best time to discuss fees.

  • johnny

    At the tjme of final parenting plan signed by judge mother of child was not working .she has to pay 86.00 dollars a mo.since then she got a goverment making good money. Do I have to go to court or does she just have to tell her new employer I live in florida

    • HowardIken

      Normally a court needs to make any changes.

  • Jennifer

    I am a single mother of 2. During the first child support I was working and splitting custody 50/50. As of August 2012 I have had the children solely with the father taking every other weekend. I have since lost my job and raising children on a bare minimum of 126.00 a month support. I am on state assistance. The father has refused to pay anymore. Is there a way for me to file ‘sans pauper’?

    • HowardIken

      You can always file by yourself. You can file an application with the clerks office to waive the filing fee. Or you can apply to legal aid for help.
      You need to modify your parenting plan first.

  • Felicia

    On my parenting plan during my divorce, my ex husband and I agreed that he would have the kids 5 weeks over the summer and 6 nights a month. I have 3 kids and my ex only takes 2 out of the 3 4 nights per month plus, he hasn’t taken the kids over the summer for the 5 weeks like the parenting plan states. Should I take him back to court to have child support adjusted?

    • HowardIken

      You can. The principle is “use it or lose it.” You can get your parenting plan adjusted and also adjust child support to match.

  • George Harris

    My wife and I were divorced in 2007 as I was on my way to prison. I was released in 2011.I had a hard time finding a permanent job because of the felones.I moved to missouri where I have family. I have found work at the minimum wage. I am in arrears and now have a warrant for my arrest in florida. How can I clear this up short of paying all of the arrears, which is not realistic.

    • HowardIken

      You have to reopen the child support case with a Motion to Set Payments on Arrears. During the same hearing the judge most likely will vacate the arrest warrant. We can do that for a flat fee

      • George Harris

        What is the fee for such a motion?

        • HowardIken

          Normally we have a flat fee in the 1,500 range

  • Maria1

    I was divorced in Alabama in 2005. I have moved to Florida in 2007 and since then my ex has not been paying child support. I have two children and both live with me. What steps do i need to take to have the divorce decree filed in Florida?

    • HowardIken

      The decree needs to be “registered or domesticated” and then it becomes the equivalent of a Florida decree. At that point you can hold an enforcement hearing.

      • Maria1

        Ok. Is your office located in Orlando?

        • HowardIken

          Yes. If you fill out the contact form a staff member will set up a free initial consult with an attorney

  • Jane

    I was divorced in 2004. Ex-husband wants another reduction and states he has 73 overnight stays. Does the new statute in 2011 apply? It was previously 146 overnight stays when we divorced. thanks

    • HowardIken

      It does apply. But if he originally had 73 overnights and all that has changed since then is the new law – many judges believe that is an insufficient change to reopen child support for modification. This is a very technical twist of law and you should call us if he files for modification.

  • moving

    If me and my ex mutually agree to cancel child support payments in Florida, how hard is it and what steps needs to be taken? Thanks.

    • HowardIken

      That is a touchy subject. It also depends on whether the Florida Dept of Revenue – Child Support Enforcement is involved. If the support is collected through the Florida State Disbursement Unit there may be more layers of complications. Also, some judges will not allow it. If this is important to both of you – it would be best to have use either draft your paperwork, or represent you for the entire procedure.

  • mickie6680

    In pasco county florida my husband and i split up and a dvi was issued on my husband which he ended up violating and being arrested over it, but the dvi was issued on him in 1999ordering him to pay childsupport in the amount of $85.69 a week, which he paid faithfully up until the first week of august 2005, due to all of a sudden no order requiring him to pay child support due to the dvi order had expired, so since august 2005 up untill 2011 my daughter was supported solely by myself, in 2011 her father got custody of her, am i entitled to anything from 2005 till 2011 beings i raised her completely?

    • HowardIken

      Yes. The arrears for child support would not have been washed out by the new custody order. You can go back to court to enforce or collect the arrears.

  • Wanda Sanchez

    My ex husband was paying child support until 7 months ago when he stop, but my child support order was in New York he lives in New Jersey. Child support office here in osceola are of no help too me what is my next step in trying too collect.

    • HowardIken

      If Child Support Enforcement will not take it, you must hire private counsel. We can register the order as a Florida order. They we can enforce the arrears.

  • Certifiably Nutty

    My girlfriend just had a mediation to modify her child support arrangements in Volusia County. The mediation went not so well. Her attorney and the mediator were encouraging her to accept what was being offered by the ex husband as being a good and fair offer. The mediator, was agreed to by both attorneys and we come to find out that he is not even certified. The mediator was highly unprofessional – making comments about my girlfriend’s political leanings (He brought it up not her, asking who she voted for and she ignored it, refusing to respond), her gender
    (“you probably weren’t a good wife, that’s why he divorced you”), her autistic child (“yeah yeah, every kid has problems”), and about her not being “bright enough to grasp what he was saying” … all in front of HER attorney who said nothing. She wound up getting $150/month child support (up from $0) but had to relinquish the tax write off for the child every other year. When she wanted to walk out of the mediation, she was told it would cost her $10,000 to pursue it through the courts.

    Is there anything that can be done to reopen this matter, it seems to me, the issues of the mediator and her own attorney clearly impacted the outcome. Oh, and the mediator and her ex-husband had a prior business relationship before the mediation, but her attorney said it was not a reason to object to the mediator.

    Any advice is helpful. Thank you.

    • HowardIken

      It would be incredibly difficult and expensive to contest on those grounds. I am not saying it is impossible – but it would certainly not be easy.

  • Lou

    This is complicated. My husband and I have been married for 22 years. He also has an ex-wife and 3 adult children, their ages are 34, 31 and 28. He got behind in child support about 6 years ago as he had a hard time finding work. When he was un-employed they took child support from that and also any income tax refund would go to the ex-wife. I would always file injured spouse forms. He finally got a full time job and is working now about one year with the same company. Now mind you he is not making the same salary as he was making when he divorced the ex-wife. We went back to court last year in New Jersey with an attorney from there and the judge said that the original order will stand. which is $1400.00 a month, and it will go through probation. So they are garnishing his pay.
    My husband is 60 years old and I am much older than him, 73. We both have a hard time with taking care of our health and we both have heart conditions. There are medical bills piling up and prescriptions we can’t afford to get. I have to weigh out buying food or medication at times.
    He knows he owes the arrears and is not trying to dodge his obligation, and because the children are all adults now, can he get the arrears to be adjusted or is there something else to be done in this case.
    Any advise is helpful. Thank you.

    • HowardIken

      This sounds like the law of New Jersey will govern. I cannot comment on that state’s law because I am admitted only in Florida. But if the situation were in Florida – arrears would be very difficult to adjust. The law of Florida does not normally support that.

  • honest question

    on November 19 1975 my ex husband was ordered to pay 40.00 a week through the broward county clerk of courts I never received a payment through the courts but did receive three or four weeks from their father im told that a court order never expires from the courts on child support how can I still collect it

    • HowardIken

      You are correct. Child support arrears normally do not expire. You must reopen the original case for an enforcement hearing. The exact steps are beyond the scope of his quick answer forum.

  • jusst asking

    My ex wife was ordered to but never paid child support, she owes around $19,000. This court ordered child support was during the time Florida has custodial parent laws,and I was the custodial parent. She works and lives with her rich boyfriend. They go on vacation and cruises all the time, yet she doesnt pay me a cent. Now she wants to take me to court to adjust the time sharing so that I end up paying her. Is there anything I can do about that?

    • HowardIken

      Just because she files for a modification does not mean she will get it. There are two sides to every case.

  • GoodBrevardDad

    Hi,im in brevard,me and my wife have been separated for 4 years,We came to an agreement on our own and we are about to get a divorce.I give her $300 every month.She does not want me to have to go threw the courts and pay threw the state.Is that possible?

    • HowardIken

      Not possible. You must file a court case and get a final judgment to dissolve your marriage.