New year brings new law for fathers in child support proceedings!
On June 15, 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed the Senate Bill, (SB 590) into law. This bill requires the Department of Revenue to provide parents with a proposed Standard Parenting Time Plan in Title IV- child support cases. This new law goes into effect on January 1, 2018!
Title IV-D cases are child support actions 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.
Prior to SB 590, the Department was strictly charged with addressing the sole issue of child support and did not have the authority to establish parenting plans. However, once this law becomes effective, the Department will have 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. In addition, a child support hearing officer will establish child support based on the parenting plan agreed to by the parties.
The Title IV-D Standard Parenting Time Plan includes how the child or children would spend weekends (including 3-day weekends), week days, Thanksgiving, Winter Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. In addition, this bill 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. However, this bill precludes 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.
In the event that the parents are successful in agreeing to a parenting time plan 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.
If the parents cannot agree to a parenting time plan, 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.
The SB 590 is expected to reduce parents’ overwhelming burden of proceeding through the often complicated and confusing court process. Also, it is expected to relieve the circuit courts from an overly congested and backlogged docket. Furthermore, it is 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. Child support and parenting time schedules are two of the most heavily litigated issues in family courts. This bill will permit 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 bill 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. Overall, this bill is projected to have a great impact on parents and the family court system.