Child support: One of the most contested aspects of divorce

Are you battling your ex over child support? If so, you are not alone.

Child Support Gavel and a $50 billIn 2011, 6.3 million custodial parents were due child support, according to the U.S. Census Bureau . Among those parents who had agreements for child support, $37.9 billion was due in 2011, the most recent figures available. The average amount of child support due was $6,050 per year (or $500 per month).

It’s a common misconception that that unless the court has issued an order for payment of child support, a non-custodial parent is not legally obligated to make payments. Legally, both parents owe an obligation of support to their children and support can be retroactive to the date it is established, meaning that a non-custodial parent can owe child support for the months, or even years, before. Make sure to file a petition for child support with the court. A judge can issue a temporary order while your divorce case is pending and a final determination of child support is made.

If you live in Florida and you are having problems collecting, consider contacting the Florida Department of Revenue , it can take a number of steps to help you collect money including income withholding, garnishment, filing legal action for enforcement, filing liens against personal property, and even driver license suspension.

In Florida, it there is past-due support of at least $400, the state Department of Revenue will report the parent who owes support and the amount owed to consumer reporting agencies (credit bureaus). If there is no payment or contact within 25 days after notice, the past-due support is reported and will appear on the person’s credit report.

However, that could change. Last month U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine and Keith Ellison of Minnesota introduced the Child Support Assistance Act of 2015 to Congress. The legislation seeks to prevent delinquent parents from manipulating their financial status after a consumer reporting agency requests their credit rating in order to either avoid making payments or reducing the amount of money they owe.

Current law requires agencies provide delinquent, non-custodial parents with a 10-day notice prior to requesting a consumer report. The bill would change the law to remove the 10-day notice requirement and would also “provide much needed clarity and consistency in how Agencies request consumer reports to set, modify and enforce child support awards,” according to a press release .

Don’t make a deal with your ex outside of the court-ordered arrangement, because it is not legally binding. If you are paying child support without a court order, make sure you have receipts and other documents showing what you have paid.

If your ex has been falling behind in making payments due to a change in financial circumstances such as a decrease in pay or job loss, he/she may go back to court to obtain a modification. The same can be said if income increases. However, both of you will need to provide the court with proof to support those changes in circumstances.

Florida law requires child support orders to provide for an end date. Child support ends on a child’s 18th birthday or until graduation from high school if the child is still in high school when he or she turns 18, or age 19, whichever happens last. It can continue for a longer period of time if the child has special needs.

Child support is one of the most contested issues when it comes to divorce. And, although there are laws designed to assist, it’s not always easy. If you are having difficulty collecting child support, it’s best to seek the professional assistance of someone who is well versed about your state’s child support laws.

Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.

Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.

If you are interested in a consultation or have questions do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we will get right back to you.

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