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Can I Get Timesharing in my Administrative Child Support Case?

The answer to this question used to be a hard no, but Florida Statute 409.2563 has changed the answer to maybe. You can now agree to a timesharing schedule in your administrative support case, but the Child Support Program cannot order a timesharing schedule. If you have received a letter that looks like the following example, pay close attention.

If you were married to the mother of your child, signed the child’s birth certificate, or have otherwise acknowledged paternity of your child, and if the mother is a recipient of public assistance (TANF, cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid) then the Department of Revenue can establish a child support obligation against you through an administrative process run by the Florida Department of Revenue’s Child Support Program. This is a non-judicial process and proceeds much more quickly than the traditional judicial circuit court process—many cases are resolved in as few as forty days! A hearing is not an automatic part of this process and must be timely requested if desired.

Generally, the Child Support Program sends a letter like the one above and requests financial information from both parties. You have twenty days to respond to the letter. You can (1) do nothing and wait for a final order to come in the mail; (2) submit the requested financial information and wait for a final order; (3) ask for an administrative hearing and wait for a hearing date; or (2) ask to proceed in circuit court. We at Dadvocacy do not recommend that you ‘do nothing’. However, the decision as to which avenue to take depends on your family’s specific circumstances, and it is prudent to immediately see an attorney. Our Dadvocacy attorneys are experienced in defending our clients in administrative proceedings and obtaining fair results.

In the past, the only reason timesharing, or parenting time, was discussed in an administrative proceeding was to determine how many overnights the parent paying support had with the child. If the child spends more than 20% of the year, or 73 overnights, with the parent paying support, the child support obligation may be reduced. This is often referred to as the substantial timesharing discount. The administrative order would then list the number of overnights used in the child support calculation, but no timesharing schedule was set. The Child Support Program deals strictly with the support of children and not with parenting time.

Now, the new statute requires the Child Support Program to send a Standard Parenting Time Plan Form with its initial Notice of Proceeding via certified mail. If you and the mother have an informal or verbal agreement regarding parenting time, then you can write it down using the form, or write it down in your own words. Both of you must sign the parenting time plan and return it to the Child Support Program along with your financial information. The Child Support Program still has no jurisdiction to make decisions about parenting time. If the parents agree to a parenting time plan, then it will be included in the final administrative order. If the parents cannot agree, then no parenting time plan will be set, and a paragraph explaining why there is no parenting time plan will be included in your final order. If you request a hearing, the administrative judge will not be permitted to make any decisions about parenting time.

If you agree to a parenting time plan and your co-parent is not following it, then you may need to file a Petition for Superseding Order in circuit court. The Child Support Program cannot modify or enforce parenting time plans. The Child Support Program’s recent inclusion of parenting time plans in its administrative process seems to be a way for parents to agree to a simple plan and reduce conflict down the road.

While there are shortcomings to this new statute, it serves as a relatively simple way to memorialize your parenting time schedule. To be clear, this parenting time plan is different from what you would get in traditional circuit court or through mediation. It does not discuss parental responsibility (shared or sole), transportation, school issues, electronic communication, travel, or other details relevant to raising a child with your co-parent. If your relationship with your co-parent tends to be high-conflict, then this parenting time plan may not work for your family. You may need a judge to order your co-parent to follow a parenting plan, and you may need the ability to enforce your parenting plan. Do not hesitate to contact us to schedule an initial consultation so we can formulate a litigation strategy that best meets the needs of your family.

Have you received a notice of administrative proceeding in the mail? Do you need to modify or enforce your administrative support order? Would you like to establish a parenting time plan with your children? Call today to speak with an experienced Dadvocacy Attorney at (305) 371-7640 about your administrative support proceeding.