FLORIDA STATE SENATOR INTRODUCES BILL TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR FATHERS TO HAVE TIME-SHARING WITH THEIR
Title IV-D child support cases are child support cases which are enforced by the Florida Department of Revenue (Department). Typically, the Department gets involved in cases where a custodial parent is receiving public assistance from the State and the non-custodial parent is not paying child support. The State of Florida contracts with the Department of Revenue to represent the custodial parent in the establishment, modification, and/or enforcement of child support. The measures taken by the Department of Revenue to collect child support advance Florida’s public policy that children should be maintained from the resources of their parents, thereby relieving, at least in part, the burden presently placed upon the general citizenry through public assistance programs.
Under the current Florida statutes, the Department does not have the authority or jurisdiction to award or change child custody or visitation. The Department is strictly charged with addressing the sole issue of child support. On January 30th, 2017, Florida Senator Brandes introduced a proposed bill into legislation that, if passed, would grant the Department jurisdiction to establish either a Title IV-D Standard Parenting Time Plan or a plan specifically created and agreed to by the parents. Whichever plan may be applicable, the requirement is that the parents must agree and it must be incorporated into the child support order. Moreover, the bill proposes that if the Department finds it necessary to take enforcement measures on a previously established child support order, it can simultaneously implement a parenting time plan, upon the agreement of both parents, where no parenting time plan has previously been established.
The Title IV-D Standard Parenting Time Plan proposed by Senator Brandes includes how the child or children would spend weekends (including 3 day weekends), week days, Thanksgiving, Winter Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. However, the proposed legislation leaves open the opportunity for parents to come to their own unique agreement that may better suit the scheduling needs of the parents’ work schedules or otherwise. This allows parents flexibility in establishing an appropriate schedule. Senator Brandes did not fail to put appropriate safeguards into the proposed bill by precluding the Department from establishing such parenting time plans where there is a history of domestic violence or a fear in one parent that the other parent may become violent.
If the parents cannot agree to a parenting time plan under the proposed legislation, the Department must refer the parents to the appropriate court to establish a parenting time plan. Further, the Department would be required to provide each parent with sufficient information regarding how to proceed with establishing a parenting time plan schedule in the appropriate circuit court.
In the event that the parents are successful in agreeing to a parenting time plan and such plan is incorporated into the child support order, under the proposed legislation, the Department has no authority or jurisdiction to enforce or modify such a plan. The Department would merely be charged with the initial establishment of the plan, in conjunction with child support, where no prior parenting time plan exists.
Pursuant to the current Florida Statutes, the Department of Revenue, in its capacity as the state Title IV-D agency, may initiate proceedings, on behalf of a custodial parent, to collect child support, a portion of which may be used to reimburse the State for public assistance payments made to the custodial parent. These proceedings prevent the custodial parent from having to initiate formal court proceedings. The Department, after providing notice to the non-custodial parent, can collect financial affidavits and other information from each parent. This information is used by the Department to determine the appropriate child support obligation pursuant to the child support guidelines of Florida Statute § 61.30. Once the determination is made, the Department mails each parent a copy of the child support order.
Within twenty (20) days after receiving the order, either parent can request an administrative hearing. If neither parent requests an administrative hearing, the right to a hearing will be deemed waived and the order implemented and filed with the clerk of circuit court. However, this does not preclude either parent, at any time in the future, from filing a modification of the order based upon a substantial change of circumstances. Furthermore, at any time prior to the Department’s rendering of the order, either parent can request that the Department proceed with the case in the circuit court, rather than administratively. Any subsequent circuit court order has the force of superseding any order established and entered by the Department.
The recent proposed legislation introduced by Senator Brandes, if passed, would serve the purpose of, not only relieving parents of limited means of the overwhelming burden of proceeding through the often complicated and confusing court process, but it would relieve the circuit courts, as well, from an overly congested and backlogged docket. Furthermore, it is if often the case that individuals of limited means, while wanting to establish a parenting time plan with their children, simply do not know where to start. The court system is sometimes impossible to navigate without the aid of an attorney. The proposed legislation would kill two significant birds with one stone. Child support and parenting time schedules are two of the most heavily litigated issues in family courts. This legislation proposes to keep those of limited means, who may otherwise never navigate through the court system to obtain a parenting time plan order, involved and active in their children’s lives.
On the other hand, it may very well be the case that neither parent is interested in establishing a parenting time plan. Since the legislation leaves open the option for either or both parents to disagree with a plan and be referred to the circuit court, it hence, gives them the option of opting out of a parenting time plan altogether.