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Florida child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Florida child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Florida child support determined?

In Florida, the courts may order either parent to pay an "equitable" amount of child support during or after the divorce process or in a situation between unmarried parents. This decision is based on the specific nature of the case. There are specific Florida child support guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to determine the amount of child support. These guidelines are followed, unless there is an agreement by the parents as to an amount of child support considered fair and reasonable by the court — or there are additional relevant factors like:

  • extraordinary medical, psychological, educational or dental expenses
  • independent income of the child
  • custodial parent receives both child support and spousal support
  • seasonal variations in the parents' income
  • recognizing older children usually have more expenses
  • other relevant and extraordinary circumstances

At what age does child support payments end?

If there is an unmarried child that's reached 18, is a full-time high school student and lives with one of the parents, the parents will maintain their respective support if the child needs it, until the child completes the twelfth grade or reaches 19 years of age, whichever comes first.

Florida's custody guidelines:

Yes. Joint or sole custody may be awarded by the Florida courts, without preference to the sex of the parents. Both parents are given equal consideration. The decision will be made based on the best interests of the child and the following considerations:

  • the moral character and prudence of the parents
  • the capability and desire of each parent to meet the child’s needs and ability to provide a stable home life
  • the wishes of the child if of sufficient age
  • the love and affection existing between the child and each parent
  • the time the child has lived in a stable home and the desire for continuity
  • the desire of each parent to allow for an open and loving relationship between the child and the other parent
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school and community environments
  • the mental and physical health of all involved
  • the relationship of the child with all family members
  • the material needs of the child
  • any evidence of domestic violence

Also, in Florida, there is a parenting course required for both parents prior to final dissolution.

Florida's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. If a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent’s employment, they are required to cover their child on it.

How permanent are the provisions for Florida child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, we encourage you to not enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Yes. Florida, like most states, has a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. It is withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

If a non-custodial parent can show that they are providing more than 50 percent of the support for dependents not included in the court order from a second marriage, and is not in arrears, no more than 50% of their disposable income can be attached if they cannot pay the full court-ordered amount of both orders.

That number goes to 55% if the non-custodial parent is in arrears, 60 percent for a person only providing support to dependents under the current order, and 65% for a person who is in arrears and paying only on the current order.

How does joint custody work?

The current thinking or national trend is to encourage parents to work together for the best interests of their children. Joint custody is now widely recognized by parents, courts and state legislatures as the preferred parenting plan for divorcing parents.

In Florida, joint custody is referred to as "shared parental responsibility" and it requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While it is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. Usually one parent is named as the primary joint custodian and the other parent is granted visitation. The primary joint custodian typically retains the decision making power to determine the child’s primary residence and school and to designate things such as the child’s primary physician.

How Florida determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree, the standard visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays
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