Child Support Carefully Safeguarding Your Rights and Interests Throughout the Process

Parkland Child Support Lawyer

Let Us Help You Secure a Fair Deal

When a couple has a child and subsequently separates, the parties must determine the extent to which each will financially contribute to the child's upbringing. In many instances, parents can amicably agree on how to cover childcare expenses. However, often, one or both parties are unable to reach an agreement outside of court. That's where your Parkland child support attorney steps in.

At Stuart N. House, P.A., our firm has more than two decades of experience as a fierce advocate for parental rights.

To arrange a free consultation with our firm that understands the ins and outs of the child support process, contact us online or give us a call at (954) 388-8443.

Florida-Specific Laws

Across the United States, the law generally requires all parents to contribute financially to their children. An exception exists in cases in which parental rights are legally terminated. Parents who have physical custody are considered by courts to be meeting their financial responsibility for the child.

Parents who do not have physical custody of their children are usually required to make payments to the custodial parent to meet the child's financial needs. Payments must be made until the child reaches the age of majority (18-years-old in Florida), joins the military and is on active duty, or is declared emancipated by the court. Parents of children who have special needs may be required to make payments beyond the age of majority. In a small percentage of cases, parents may be ordered by a court to pay support for a child who resides with neither parent.

Married vs. Unmarried Parents

For Parkland couples that divorce, courts generally seek to resolve child support and custody issues at the time of the dissolution of the marriage. In cases involving unmarried couples, the procedure for obtaining a child support order may vary significantly. The child's father may be legally required to establish paternity. If he does not do so voluntarily, the mother may be required to bring a lawsuit to establish paternity through genetic testing.

When Both Parents Have Joint Custody

Determining child support can be a more complicated process when both parents have joint custody. In Florida, child support is calculated based on the number of overnight stays a child has with each parent. The overnight stay totals are used to calculate timeshare percentages, which are then used along with parental income to determine child support payment responsibility.

Different Ways Agreements Are Formed

There are three ways in which a child support agreement may come about. A support arrangement may be agreed upon in informal negotiations, usually involving lawyers for both parties. Parents may resolve child support issues and reach an agreement outside of court through alternative dispute resolution proceedings, abbreviated as ADR. Parkland parents who are unable to reach an agreement informally or through ADR may settle their issues in court, at which point a judge will eventually enter a child support order.

Informal Negotiations

Parents who are willing to work together may negotiate informally to create a child support agreement. Parties must agree on payment amount, frequency of payments, and duration). The parties may choose to complete negotiations without attorneys, or they may have their child support lawyers present their positions.

If informal negotiations are successful, the result gets written into a settlement agreement. In cases where both parties prefer to negotiate directly, each parent should consult and retain a lawyer in the interest of preserving their parental rights and achieving a balanced outcome in the interest of the child.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

ADR includes more structured out-of-court forums like mediation and collaborative law. Because ADR proceedings are usually less adversarial and more informal than court, settlements tend to be reached comparatively quicker than in cases that get decided in court.

During mediation, a third-party mediator works with the two parties to resolve issues that prevent them from reaching an agreement. Parents may feel less tension when going to mediation as statements made during the proceedings are confidential. Many jurisdictions in Florida require parents to go to mediation for child support cases instead of immediately proceeding to trial.

The collaborative law approach is dependent on both parties' commitment to settling. Both parties' are required to indicate their commitment to act in good faith and fairness by signing an agreement agreeing to do so before the process begins. The parties then work with their Parkland lawyers to reach a custody settlement.

If one party terminates the process in favor of litigation, both child support attorneys must withdraw, and the parties must hire different counsel to represent them in court. Arbitration, a process during which a third party hears both sides and issues a ruling, is less common in family law cases. Arbitration decisions are not necessarily final, and the parties may still resolve critical issues at a later date in court.

Finalizing the Agreement

The creation of a written agreement is the ideal result in every case. A judge examines the agreement and makes sure it complies with state law. The parties may then be required to attend an informal court hearing, at which the judge will ask questions to ensure both parties understand the terms of the agreement. The judge will approve the agreement if he or she is satisfied that the contract was fairly negotiated and complies with the state's guidelines.

In Florida, a child support agreement that is approved by a judge becomes a binding order. If either parent repeatedly violates the order, he or she may face legal penalties.

Always Have Representation

Hiring a child support lawyer is always advisable, even if both parents believe they can negotiate an agreement in a non-adversarial manner. Florida child support laws are complex; therefore, having an attorney explain the available legal options can help ensure the negotiation process can reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding and unfairness.

Lawyers can also professionally articulate their client's position through emotions though the subject matter is very sensitive, and emotions may run high. Family court attorneys may help understand the law in an unbiased and analytical way, which may ultimately give parties the clarity to understand what is best for the child and reach an agreement sooner. Whether creating an informal arrangement, going through an ADR process, or preparing for a court battle, parents have much to gain and much less to lose by consulting with an experienced family lawyer.

If you need skilled representation in Parkland, divorce attorney Stuart N. House, P.A. stands ready to help. Our initial consultations are free. Contact us online or via phone at (954) 388-8443 for help with your case.

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