Articles Posted in Child Support

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Continued from Part I. Some of the terms used in this post are described in Part I, and it will probably be easier to read Part I first. One of the advantages of having payments go through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) or depository, is that it limits interaction with the other parent which some parties very much want. Also if payments are made through the SDU or local depository, it’s more “official” in the sense that the depository keeps track of what is paid and owed, so there is a government agency tracking that. If the child support is going through the SDU or depository and the payee doesn’t make the payments, the depository will take steps to generate a delinquency judgement against him or her – i.e. a court order that says the payee is delinquent and owes you the amount of the delinquency as “arrears”. Also, when payments go through the SDU or the depository, and the payee becomes delinquent, you can contact the depository and ask them to begin the process of cancelling the payee’s driver’s license if they don’t pay. Each of the enforcement tools described above is available whether you have payments go through the SDU or the local depository (but the local depository is the office that actually initiates these enforcement actions — the SDU is basically a State agency that handles receiving and disbursing child support funds). There are additional methods available to enforce child support either on your own, through a private attorney, or you can apply for services through Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement, to have the Department of Revenue enforce the order for you.

The first step if you want child support payments to go through the SDU or the local depository, or if there is an Income Deduction Order, is to set up you Child Support Account. You have to do that through the local Clerk of Court’s child support depository. You can find the contact information for the depository on the website for the clerk of court in your county. The following link will take you to the website for the Broward County Child Support depository. There is a link on this website to a page with the application form to set up your account and to set-up direct deposit, and other information and “FAQs”.

Unless you request otherwise and explain to the Judge why you believe it is in the child’s bests interest for payments to be made directly by one parent to another, rather than via an Income Deduction Order, the Judge will order payments through the SDU and enter an Income Deduction Order. If you and other parent, however, request “direct” payment, and give at least some reason why you want that and believe it is best, the Judge will most likely go along with want you want, so long as there isn’t something in the case that makes the Judge think that isn’t going to be a good idea. Even when the Court approves direct payment, Florida Statutes require the Judge to enter an order providing for Income Deduction, but the order can provide that Income Deduction is delayed and will not start or take effect, until until the payee is delinquent in his or her payments.

As far as the advantages and disadvantages of having child support come directly out of the payee’s paycheck via an Income Deduction Order — the basic advantage is that it’s a wage garnishment order — the funds come out of the paycheck and go to you — less worry about the money being paid. Some people are uncomfortable having their job involved, but Income Deduction Orders are fairly common these days. Some parents for various reasons prefer not to go this route, but it’s an option that’s there.

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This post and Part II will focus on some of the nuts and bolts of setting up a child support account with the State once you have your child support order, and some of the different ways or options for receiving the payments. One issue to consider when you get your Broward County Child Support order, or order in another county in Florida, is the method you want to use for receiving the payments. You can receive the payments directly from the other parent, or have the other parent pay the support through the “State Disbursement Unit” (SDU) in Tallahassee or your local Clerk of Court Child Support Depository. Another decision is whether you want an “Income Deduction Order”.

First to explain some of the terms: The State Disbursement Unit (“SDU”) is an office/agency in Tallahassee which handles receiving and then disbursing child support payments, and the County Depository is an office in the county Clerk of Court that can perform that function also. Basically, the payee pays the child support to the SDU/Depository, and the SDU or local Depository then pays the support to you. If your case is a “Title IV D” case, i.e. if the Florida Department of Revenue is handling your case for you, then the proper “depository” is the SDU. The Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement Division can handle filing the court papers to get the initial child support order for you, and can represent you to enforce the order later on if the payee does not make the required payments. I’ll include further information in Part II of this post about applying for services through the Department of Revenue.

If the Department of Revenue is not handling your case, then you can set things up for the person paying to pay either through the SDU or the local Clerk of Court Depository. It’s a little confusing, but just part of the way the payment system has evolved over the years. One advantage of the payment going through the SDU for you if you are receiving the child support, is that you can set up direct deposit of child support you receive through the SDU, but not the local depository. One last term – an Income Deduction Order is a special type of court order which requires the payee’s employer to deduct the child support payments from the payee’s paycheck, and send the funds to the SDU.

Some people prefer to receive payments directly from the other parent, rather than having them go through a depository. There used to be a potential time-saving by setting things up that way – you didn’t have to wait the time for the payee to mail the check to the depository, and then get a check back in the mail, but now a payee can pay by having the funds come right out of their bank account by electronic funds transfer, and you can receive you funds by direct deposit – so that advantage is not really there anymore. There is a fee when the payment is made through the SDU, up to $5.25 per payment (no fee if the Department of Revenue is handling the case). Continued in Part II.

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Most Broward County Child Support attorneys, as well as mediators and Judges at the courthouse, use family law financial software to calculate child support, and there are some child support calculators on-line. If you’re attempting to determine child support though for yourself, it’s going to be a good idea for you to make the calculations by hand, using Florida’s Child Support Guidelines Worksheet – to be sure you get the figures right, including any adjustment for the number of “overnights” each parent spends with the child(ren) (more below on this), and to be sure you’ll understand the issues and items that go into determining child support under Florida law.

The first step is to determine each parent’s net-income. The income and deductions that are considered in determining net income for child support are set forth in detail in Florida’s child support statute, but the easiest way to arrive at the amount is to complete the Florida Family Law Financial Affidavit. There is a separate form if you make under $50,000 per year gross income and one for over $50,000. The financial affidavits, child support worksheet as well as other family law forms can be found at Florida Family Law Forms. As you can see on the child support worksheet, you need each parent’s net income to calculate child support. If you know the other parent’s monthly gross income and their monthly health insurance costs, figuring their net income may not be difficult for you. There are paycheck calculators on-line that will assist you in determining monthly income tax, and social security and medicare taxes. The amounts you list for monthly taxes on the financial affidavit will not necessarily be the amounts deducted each month from a paycheck – some people, based on the number of exemptions they list on their W-4, have more or less than the actual amount of the taxes they’ll owe at the end of the year deducted from their paycheck. In cases where you don’t know the other parent’s income, there is a part of litigation called “discovery” through which you are entitled to receive financial information and records from the other parent, including their financial affidavit and copies of bank account and other statements. If you believe the other party is hiding income, there are more extensive discovery methods available, and some litigated cases will involve using a “forensic accountant” as an expert witness in establishing the other party’s income.

Once you have the net income for each parent, you can proceed with filling out the blanks in the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. The Worksheet tells you step-by-step what amounts to add or subtract from what, and the other parts of the calculations. The concept is basically that you add together the parents’ net incomes to arrive at an amount for combined net income, then use the child support chart included in the instructions for the Worksheet to come up with the “Basic Monthly Obligation”. If you look on the child support chart, you’ll see income amounts on the left side, and the number of children across the top, and the Basic Monthly Obligation for your situation, as shown on the chart, is the amount the Florida Legislature has determined is the amount that should be used as the basic child support amount (before health and daycare costs) for parents with a certain combined net income and number of children. The Worksheet will then take you through determining your share of the basic monthly obligation, which is based on your percentage share of the parents’ combined net-income. For example if the parents’ combined net income is $3,000/month and your monthly net-income is $2,000, the calculation starts off with your being responsible for 2/3 of the basic monthly obligation. Each parent’s percentage share of daycare and health insurance costs for the child are then added in.

There is then an adjustment if each parent spends 20% or more of the overnights with the child – that’s the number of nights the child spends with you under the time-sharing plan in place. It’s a bit more complicated to explain this calculation, but there are detailed instructions on the Worksheet. Basically, the parent paying child support will pay less, the more overnights they spend with the child.