All too often we have clients come into us to talk about child support once things have compounded and they’re in arrears. Often these client’s licenses has been suspended and they’re wages are about to be garnished. Most of these clients started their cases by a letter in the mail from the Department of Revenue.
The Department of Revenue gets involved in cases when someone tries to “get child support” without filing a petition in Circuit Court. The Department will determine if someone is a father and if they are, they will establish paternity. An adjudication of paternity is needed in Florida for an unmarried father to have ANY rights, regardless of child support.
So, once that occurs, a letter goes out saying you’ve been determined the father or mother and you have to pay child support. The letter gives you three real options:
If you simply acquiesce, you are likely going to be paying more than what you should really be without any set time sharing or parental responsibility parameters. So, you’ll be paying money without rights in place.
If you request a hearing in front of an ALJ, you will likely end up in a similar situation as if you were simply acquiescing. No real rights in place and making a payment. If you file a Petition for Paternity instead of going through the Department of Revenue you have options. The Court will adjudicate paternity and set child support but it’s based on your income, the other party’s income, timesharing, and other various expenses. This is so important because you HAVE to establish time sharing in Circuit Court. You will know when is the minimums you get your child or children. Another super important thing is that in Circuit Court you will be able to modify your child support in the event you have a substantial unforeseen change in circumstances.
If you have something occur that changes things – a loss of a job, you taking care of the child or children more, the other party getting a much better job than they had, one or the other party going to prison, etc. All of these things can and likely will change the calculation for child support.
Unfortunately, some clients weren’t given this advice and simply acquiesced to the Department of Revenue’s demands. They simply wait and either stop paying or have something happen and they don’t know what to do. Once your child support is due without an agreement from the other person, it is due and owing. It is almost impossible to change without an agreement even if your child is over 18 now.
Sometimes the other person will agree to waive or take a percentage of the due child support. If that is the case he or she can write a notarized letter to the Department of Revenue and poof that happens. Think of the Department as a third party collection agency in these circumstances. You can try to talk to the Department until you’re blue in the face, but they’re not calling the shots. The best thing you can do is to mitigate it at that point.
More importantly, if you get a letter from the Department of Revenue make sure you talk to an attorney to make sure you get your rights and don’t just give out your hard earned money. You don’t want to be in that situation ten years from now when your kids are grown.