Every single person that has minor children pays child support. Whether you are happily married, separated, divorced, or the parent of a child born without a marriage in place, you pay child support. Every time you buy food, toys, or pay the rent/mortgage, you are paying child support. The gas you spend to send your children to soccer practice or to the doctor’s office is supporting the children. When I took my children to see “Dolphin Tale” and when I take them to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (www.seewinter.com) that is supporting my children.
However, society views the term “child support” much differently. Most people view child support as one parent paying another parent a certain amount of money per month pursuant to a court order. Remember, the parent that is receiving the payments is also paying support in almost all circumstances.
One question I answer a lot is, “When will my court-ordered child support obligations terminate?” The question is somewhat complicated even though it really shouldn’t be. Theoretically, court-ordered child support ends when the minor child is 18 (section 61.13(1)(a)1.a., Florida Statutes (2011). However, if your child support order was entered prior to October 2011, you may have to take an additional step to terminate your court-ordered child support obligations.
If your child support order is dated before 2010, it likely does not have a provision that automatically terminates your court-ordered obligations. In other words, when your child becomes a legal adult, your child support may continue unless you file documents with the court asking that your child support obligations end. If you have multiple children, you would have to file each time one child reaches majority to reduce your obligation for the remaining children.
Of critical importance, when you seek to modify child support, the modification is retroactive to the date you filed your documents. You are also obligated to continue to pay child support until such time as a new court order is entered. Take careful note of this part. You could file to terminate your child support in June, and a court order is not entered until December. You then paid six months of child support that you now have to seek a refund for from the other parent.
2010 CHANGES TO CHILD SUPPORT TERMINATION
In October 2010, section 61.13, Florida Statutes, was amended to require all child support orders to contain the following:
- For child support to terminate on a child’s 18th birthday unless the court finds or previously found that s. 743.07(2) applies, or is otherwise agreed to by the parties;
- A schedule, based on the record existing at the time of the order, stating the amount of the monthly child support obligation for all the minor children at the time of the order and the amount of child support that will be owed for any remaining children after one or more of the children are no longer entitled to receive child support; and
- The month, day, and year that the reduction or termination of child support becomes effective.
Unfortunately, I think that a few child support orders are still slipping by the courts that do not contain this mandatory language. However, this change in the law is a strong step towards reducing the burden on the party paying court-ordered child support and reduces the expenses of having to pay an attorney to stop paying child support.
If you pay child support by court order, pull out that order and review it. If there is a provision in your court order that automatically terminates child support, read no further. However, if your court order does not have an automatic termination provision, please make an appointment with your trusted family law attorney to add in the automatic termination provisions. It is much less expensive to add in the provisions now than to pay the court-ordered child support after it should have been terminated and hire an attorney to assist you.
However, I would remind parents that even if court-ordered child support is terminated, supporting our children is a life-long process.