Child Support Attorneys in Tampa Fight for Appropriate Orders
Florida lawyers provide skilled negotiation and litigation for your child’s welfare
Although Florida law recognizes that your child’s welfare depends on support from both parents, there are circumstances that can shift the burden to one or the other. Unequal obligations may be appropriate but only when the calculations are based on financial reality. At Sessums Law Group in Tampa, our experienced family law attorneys advocate aggressively for you to ensure any child support settlement or court order is the result of full financial disclosure and an accurate assessment of all pertinent facts. We know how to use the discovery process to uncover hidden assets or unreported sources of income to ensure the court has all relevant information necessary for a fair determination.
Child support basics in Florida
Florida law holds that a child has a right to support from both parents, whether the parents are divorced or have never been married. Child support is meant to cover the child’s basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, but it also covers what is appropriate for the healthy development of the child, based on the parents’ background and standard of living. So child support is meant to ensure the child’s standard of living is continued as much as possible, up to and including college expenses.
Child support orders are supposed to be gender neutral in Florida. But, in reality, mothers often have sole child custody, and their role as the primary caregiver often prevents them from earning as much as their ex-husbands, resulting in a disparity of economic support for their children. However, fathers’ rights advocates often complain that courts are too quick to order disparate support obligations without looking deeply into the parents’ finances. Our attorneys advocate for mothers and fathers in support disputes and pursue the best possible outcome for our clients based on the financial realities before us.
In Florida, child support obligations commonly last until the child is 18 years old but may remain in place until high school graduation or the child’s 19th birthday. However, courts can order payment of college expenses. If the supporting parent encounters financial hardships, it is possible to petition the court for a modification of support, proving a “substantial change” has occurred, necessitating a change of at least 15 percent in the amount ordered or $50, whichever is greater.
How courts calculate child support in Tampa
Florida family law requires the court to use state guidelines, based on the parents’ income and the number of children, to calculate basic child support. However, the court has the discretion to deviate from those guidelines plus or minus five percent after “considering all relevant factors,” including:
- The needs of the child
- The child’s age
- The child’s station in life
- The child’s standard of living
- The financial status and ability of each parent
However, that five percent is hardly the maximum deviation allowed. The court can order a greater deviation simply by issuing a “written finding” that explains the need for a greater deviation.
A strong factor in the court’s determination is the desire to shield the child from negative consequences of the parents’ divorce by maintaining the child at the same standard of living he or she would have enjoyed had the parents remained married. This predisposition often means that parents in certain sections of the Bay Area, such as Harbour Island, Golf View or Parkland Estates, can wind up paying more in support than parents from Largo or Pinellas Park. If your child’s peers attend private school and go to summer camp and the expectation before the divorce was that your child would do the same, the court can make such expenses part of the support order.
Another important factor is the amount of time the child spends with each parent. When the child resides with one parent a substantial amount of the time, the court will increase the other parent’s obligation.
Contact our experienced family law attorneys for child support disputes in Tampa
Sessums Law Group represents Florida parents in child support disputes throughout the Tampa Bay area. We are determined to help you obtain an order that makes sense for your financial circumstances. Please call 813-435-5058 or contact us online to schedule an appointment at our Tampa office.