After a break up of a relationship with children, the most difficult decisions are how to care for the children. Families who had been accustomed to two incomes and one household, find that now they must stretch the same incomes to support two completely separate households. The breakdown and break up of a relationship is difficult for all involved. It is even more difficult when the parties have not come to an agreement about how to support their children. The financial support of the children is not the obligation of just one of the parents -- it is always both parents obligations to support their children.
If you have been served with a Petition for Child Support and Other Relief, you need to file your answer within the allotted time (generally 20 calendar days). If you don't answer, your ex is most likely going to be awarded the amount requested. This type of petition is almost always generated with the help of the Department of Revenue (DOR), filed in behalf of the custodial parent. When married parents divorce, child support calculations are almost always part of the process. Not so with parents who were never married.
Children have the right to know and have access to both parents. All too often, unwed fathers are ordered to pay support with no mechanism for time-sharing (child visitation). Be sure to answer the Petition for Child Support, but also learn how to have rights to see your child. A Petition to Determine Paternity and Related Relief, is like a divorce for couples who have a child together but were never married. A child support hearing officer or magistrate will not order time-sharing or visitation -- only a judge may do that. Many unwed fathers appear at the Magistrate Hearing ready and willing to pay child support, but also believing that they will be awarded visitation/ timesharing with their child. This isn't so. The only way for an unwed father to legally assert his paternal and parental rights is to file the Petition to Determine Paternity and Related Relief and associated documents.
Filing this does not mean that the Father's paternity is in question, it is simply the name of the process. The fact that he is on the birth certificate is not enough for an unwed father to pursue visitation, timesharing or child custody. The outcome of the Petition to Determine Paternity and Related Relief will be that he is named as the legal father and will have the same rights as if he had been married and then divorced from the child's mother. Along with the petition documents it is good practice to also file a proposed Parenting Plan to offer a starting point for court ordered timesharing. If the other party disagrees with your proposed schedule of timesharing, the court will likely refer both of you to mediation to work out a schedule that works for all involved.
If you need help preparing your Answer to a Child Support Petition or any other family law forms -- call us, toll free - 800-515-0496.
Following is a sample of the standard Petition for Support and Other Relief that the DOR commonly uses in child support cases.
Florida Department of Revenue (DOR), on behalf of
___________________, custodial parent (DOR Case _________________ ),
by and through the undersigned attorney, files this Petition for
Support and Other Relief, and as grounds, states as follows:
This is an action to determine child support and other relief
pursuant to Chapters 61, 409 and 742, Florida Statutes.
2. One of parties and/or the child(ren) presently reside(s) in ________________ County, Florida
3. Upon information and belief, the Respondent is over eighteen (18) years of age, not incompetent, and is not a member of the armed forces of the United States or its allies
4. This court has personal jurisdiction over the Respondent in that he presently is, or was preceding the commencement of this action, a resident of the State of Florida, and/ or has sufficient minimum contacts with the State of Florida for this court to have personal jurisdiction over him.
5. The Respondent is the biological and/ or legal father and noncustodial parent of the child(ren) listed below; he has been legally determined to be the father of the child(ren) pursuant to Chapter 742, Florida Statutes, or his paternity of the child(ren) otherwise has been established according to law. Information regarding the children is as follows:
(Childrens' full names; dates of birth; and genders are listed)
6. The Custodial Parent is the biological and/ or legal mother of the above-named child(ren).
7. The above named child(ren) is (are) in the care and actual custody of the Custodial Parent, and they reside together.
8. The Custodial Parent and the child(ren) need, and have needed since the child(ren)'s birth(s), child support in an amount calculated pursuant to Section 61.30, Florida Statutes.
9. The child(ren) need(s) health insurance the Custodial Parent needs contribution for any non-insured health related expenses incurred for the child(ren)'s benefit.
10. As the biological and/or legal father and non-custodial parent of the child(ren), the Respondent has a legal duty to contribute to the child(ren)'s support. In addition, the Respondent is employed earning at last minimum wage or has the ability to be employed earning at least minimum wage for long enough to enable him to provide the financial relief requested by this pleading.
11. The Respondent is responsible for retroactive child support for the period commencing: a) 24 months prior to the date that this pleading was filed, or b) if prior petitions for support have been dismissed, 24 months prior to the date that first petition for support was filed, or c) from the date of the parties' separation, whichever is appropriate, pursuant to Section 61.30(17), Florida Statutes
12. The Respondent has the ability to provide health insurance for the minor child(ren), and to pay all or a portion of the non-insured medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses incurred for the child(ren)'s benefit.
13. The Custodial Parent and the child(ren) are eligible for child support services of the Department pursuant to Chapter 409, Florida Statutes.
14. DOR has incurred administrative costs, fees for legal services, and court costs related to this action.
15. DOR's participation and the undersigned attorney's representation are limited in scope as set forth in Section 409.2564(5), Florida Statutes. Pursuant to Rule 12.040(c)(2), Florida Family Law Rules, DOR hereby notifies the parties that the DOR attorney represents only DOR, and not the recipient of DOR child support services. The DOR attorney may only address issues concerning determination of
paternity, and enforcement of support obligations.
After the numbered paragraphs in the Petition for Support and Other Relief, there is most likely a very long list, the “Wherefore” clause. The list is made up of lettered paragraphs, rather than numbered paragraphs, and are specific requests made to the court. The wherefore clause begins as follows:
“WHEREFORE, the Petitioner respectfully requests that the Court:”
After that opening sentence, lettered paragraphs begin requesting that the Respondent be ordered to pay everything from retroactive child support, to medical insurance, to court costs.