Communicating Child Support (in Florida)

Managing and exchanging money can be difficult for even the most amicable of exes and co-parents, but tensions often rise when money is being exchanged between parents who don’t trust each other and can’t seem to agree on much. It may seem natural or even obvious for a parent paying child support to demand how their funds are being spent by the receiving parent. Perhaps the receiving parent suddenly starts taking lavish trips and has nicer clothes- this might raise some eyebrows.

What can I ask?

So what happens if a parent thinks child support payments aren’t being used to support the child? Surely the parent receiving child support must account for how they’re spending it, right? The short answer is no. Florida doesn’t have a legal framework or system that will enforce this type of request. Of course, many co-parents have an amicable relationship where this information might be readily disclosed and discussed. But if the parent doesn’t answer a request to account for how they spend, there’s nothing the court will do about it. The court’s assumption is that the money is being used to care for the child.

Broad definitions

Florida doesn’t have a universal list of “acceptable” ways to spend child support. At its core, the concept of child support was meant to ensure each parent is able to meet the child’s essential needs like food, clothing, and shelter. However, there are many different ways a parent can use child support, such as on utility payments, insurance, or even savings for future education. It’s really within the discretion of the parent. The court is simply trying to ensure that between them, the parents’ resources are allocated such that the child is properly cared for in each household. They want to prevent a situation where one parent has significant resources and the other parent can’t make rent or transport the child to school.

Sharing resources

It might seem unreasonable to the paying parent that their child support payments are going toward increasing the standard of living for their ex, and in many cases, this might be true. But the way the court sees it, as long as the child gets to share in this lifestyle, that’s all that matters. Where the court will pay attention is if one parent suspects the other parent îsn’t providing basic needs for the child. If there is such evidence, this no longer is an issue of child support, but instead an issue of child custody. If the custody order changes, the difference in timeshare can be a basis for also changing the child support order.

Types of child support orders

Parents should remember that base child support is only one part of the order. Parents must 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 really important that a detailed accounting is kept. In this case, and unlike for base child support, responding to a request for expense details is a legal requirement.

Keep track of the details

In Florida, there are many requirements imposed on both parties to make sure these sorts of expenses 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 SupportPay is valuable in this situation, as it can track the timing of the correspondence, whether the requested reimbursement is even proper per the order, and when the reimbursement is paid.

SupportPay Can Help

A solution like SupportPay can help parents easily communicate and track these expenses, reducing the likelihood they will become confused, angry with each other, or end up in court. An added benefit of using a tech platform to track these requests is ensuring each request is proper per the order. Imagine a situation where the child support order only includes add-ons for shared medical expenses and day care. One day, the custodial parent requests reimbursement for private school tuition, and the obligating parent doesn’t agree to reimburse. A Judge would want to see this correspondence to determine whether the expense is proper per the court order. SupportPay easily produces the correspondence for the Judge, who could then determine that request invalid and unenforceable.

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