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Some child support basics: the court’s role

Ending a marriage can be a difficult, emotional thing. When there are children in the family, there are often many issues to be resolved. Although, at times, the process can be contentious, providing what they believe is best for children is usually at the heart of both parents' positions. Florida courts, however, have discretion in deciding some of these matters. Custody, visitation and monetary support terms are the topmost findings to be made.

At any time during the process the court may order either parent to pay child support to the other parent. In some unique circumstances, both parents may be ordered to pay support to a third party who has custody. This might apply in the case of a grandparent caring for the child, for example. Child support will terminate on a child's eighteenth birthday, unless other circumstances such as medical need have been found to apply.

The original court entering a child support order will keep jurisdiction, modifying the amount, terms or conditions of support payments if it deems a change is in the best interest of the child or children. Some reasons for modification include when parental circumstances change, a child is emancipated, married, passes away or joins the military.

Support orders will include provisions for health insurance for a minor child if the incremental cost of doing so doesn't exceed five percent of the gross income of the parent responsible for providing it. The court defines this parameter as reasonable. Accessible medical care under the insurance plan must be available to the child in the county of his or her primary residence or in another county as relates to time-sharing plans. The court may require the insurance be paid for by the responsible parent or that reimbursement be made if applicable. Medical expenses such as dental that aren't covered under insurance can be assigned by the court to either or both parents, on a percentage formula based on income.

If the parties don't agree upon the means support will be paid, or if other issues are present, Court-ordered support, insurance premiums, past due support or other medical payments may be ordered to be withheld from the responsible parent's wages. Employers or union officials who don't comply are subject to civil penalties.

Source: Florida Statutes Chapter 61.13, "Support of children; parenting and time-sharing; powers of court," accessed May. 27, 2015

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