You have an order for child support, but how do you collect the money? It can be complicated when understanding where to begin. While a key factor in deciding how to collect support is how well the parents get along, there will always be two main types of support to collect in Florida: 1. The base guideline child support amount that was ordered from one parent to the other; 2. The shared ongoing expenses that both parents must share, such as uninsured medical expenses, daycare, etc.
How it works in Florida
In Florida, you can either collect base child support payments directly from the other parent, or file an enforcement action with the Child Support Enforcement Bureau of the Office of the Attorney General. For parents who are amicable, keeping track of payments themselves is usually the best option. Typically, the owing parent will write a check to the other parent each month, making sure to be consistent and timely, or use any electronic method where proof of payment is undisputable. This way, if there’s ever a disagreement down the line, a Judge has a record of payments that is clear and easy to follow. For example, you want to make it obvious which payments correspond to which month. If you are paying support for the month of August 2020, make sure there is a memo associated with that payment that says “child support for August 2020” rather than “August”, or “monthly payment.” Support Pay has automatic tracking built into its app platform, and is the perfect solution for parents who do their own accounting of child support payments, as it automatically creates an evidence trail if you parents should ever need it.
But wait, there's more
The second way to collect support in Florida is to open up an enforcement action with the Child Support Enforcement Bureau of the Office of the Attorney General. It is important to note that the office does not represent either parent- their only interest is in enforcing the order, essentially acting as the child’s advocate. Especially for parents who don’t communicate well, opening up a case can make a lot of sense. For example, the agency can impose a wage garnishment, put liens against the obligating parent’s financial assets, and even intercept tax returns. They can help recover any back pay owed, or interest that accrues, as a result of late payments or non-payments. In the unfortunate case of a parent being extremely delinquent, they can hold a non-compliant parent in contempt of court or impose quasi-criminal penalties.
What to keep in mind
However, it’s important to understand some of the downsides of getting a state agency involved in your personal matters. Once a case is opened, the state monitors all aspects of your payment records. For example, if the agency has a wage garnishment imposed on the paying parent, but the parents come to a separate agreement one month, the garnishment will still move forward unless you agree with the agency or the court that it can be. Because of the added party involved in the case, it can prevent parents from coming to agreements on their own, which should otherwise be encouraged. Since all payments must be tracked through the agency, and sometimes parents aren’t diligent about communicating with the agency, it can potentially result in over or under payments, delayed payments, miscalculations, and court appearances to change orders. This is why introducing a solution like Support Pay, which enables parents to track their own payments, helps prevent miscommunications by automatically accounting for all payments.
Parents should remember that base child support is only one part of the order. Parents also need to account for the additional expenses courts order to be shared between parents. In Florida, courts also order the parties to share expenses such as uninsured medical costs, daycare expenses, and educational expenses. Because the breakdown of what each parent owes is based on the allocation of the court order (it isn’t always a 50/50 split), it’s of paramount importance that a detailed accounting is kept. The Child Support Enforcement Bureau does not keep track of these expenses, as a wage garnishment only collects the monthly “guideline” amount. This means the parents are responsible for timely requesting and reimbursing these extra costs.
SupportPay Can Help
In Florida, there are many requirements imposed on both parties to make sure payments are properly requested and paid. For example, the parent who incurred the expense must provide the other parent with proof of the expense, proof of payment, and instructions on reimbursement within 30 days of incurring the expense. The owing parent then has 30 days to reimburse the other parent the proper amount. A platform like Support Pay is valuable in this situation, so it can track the timing of the correspondence, whether the requested reimbursement is even proper per the order, and when the reimbursement is paid.
Wrapping it up
Compliance with state laws regarding child support is extremely important, especially when the volume of reimbursements can increase with multiple children of the marriage. Failure to follow the order can result in extreme penalties, and the Florida Child Support Enforcement Bureau can exercise a multitude of remedies to make the parties whole. It is in both parties’, and the children’s, best interest to keep organized and prevent further complication in often times an already contentious and emotional situation.