When determining child support, no shenanigans allowed

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When it comes to divorce or paternity cases, child support is definitely an issue that brings up a lot of emotion. Although most parents do want to support their children financially, the devil is in the details. Many parents fear they won't receive enough -- or will pay too much.

When a child support payor tries to get out of paying the full obligation, a child may be going without necessities -- or may feel their needs aren't important. That's why no one in the legal system should ever help someone avoid or evade paying. However, irregularities can enter into the picture at any point -- the initial determination of the child support obligation, the payment or collection stage, a later modification or even the point at which support is terminated. Trying to wriggle out of a lawful obligation is inadvisable at any point.

Consider the recent case of a Bartow lawyer whose license was just suspended for three months. Why? He tried to help his client obtain a lower child support order than was warranted by his income. The lawyer has pled guilty to fraud.

According to the Ledger, back in January 2010 the attorney was working with a client in a paternity and child support case. The client was employed by his uncle, and the attorney encouraged the client into a fraud. He suggested the man ask his uncle to give him a position with a lower salary so that he could reduce his child support obligation. It's not clear whether the client's salary was actually reduced, but it can meet the definition of fraud either way.

The fraud wasn't discovered until recently, when the mother obtained copies of the emails between the lawyer, the client and the employer-uncle.

You can't reduce your child support obligation by intentionally reducing your income

If you are involved in a paternity case or divorce and expect to pay child support, you should know that you're expected to meet your obligation to the best of your ability. If a court determines you are intentionally bringing home less than you are capable of earning, it may base your child support order on what you should be earning instead of what you are.

To do this, the court uses "imputed income," or an imaginary but actionable sense of what your true income is or should be. This is meant to limit a parent's ability to reduce their child's standard of living in order to save money.

If you are subject to a Florida child support order and are having trouble paying, now is the time to contact an attorney. You need to get your order modified in court so that arrears don't build up.

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