Child Support Basics

By Selena Garrison

When you dreamed of what your family’s life would look like, child support issues were probably not part of that picture. However, many families find themselves in situations where state intervention in the management of child support is needed. If you find yourself in this situation, you may feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. This quick guide will help walk you through the child support process.

In Florida, the Child Support Program is managed by the Department of Revenue. The purpose of the program is to help children get the financial support they need when it is not being provided by one parent or the other. According to the Department of Revenue, the program’s services include locating parents and assets; establishing paternity; establishing and modifying child support orders; monitoring and taking action to help parents comply with child support orders; receiving and distributing child support payments; and educating and assisting parents and the public. The Department of Revenue is currently providing child support services to nearly 1 million children in the state of Florida, collecting over a billion dollars in child support each year.

You can apply for child support services if you are the parent or caregiver of a child who needs child support or if you are a parent who is owed unpaid child support. You will automatically receive services if you have recently applied for or currently receive public assistance from the state. You might also automatically receive services if you received public assistance or child support services in the past. To apply for services, you can visit your local child support office (5719 NW 13 St., Gainesville, Florida)  or call 1-800-622-KIDS (5437) to have an application mailed to you.

Once you have signed up for services and established paternity (if needed), you will likely be asked for your current income information and federal income tax returns for the past three years, a completed financial affidavit, and a completed paternity declaration. Once all of the necessary information is received, your case will be started within 21 days.

Once your case has been started, the Child Support Program will help you to establish a child support order, outlining the amount and type of support the non-custodial parent is required to provide for their child(ren). In Florida, the amount of child support a parent is responsible for paying is outlined in Florida law and depends on the income and assets of both parents, the child and parent’s health insurance, child care costs, and the standard needs of the child (housing, electricity, food, clothing, etc.). Child support obligation also takes into account the number of children requiring support.

 While the process of establishing and receiving child support may seem overwhelming, your local Child Support Office will be there to help each step of the way. For information on methods for paying and receiving child support, you can visit and click on the “Child Support” tab at the top of the page.

Establishing Paternity

If paternity for the child has not been established, genetic testing will be required. These tests can be scheduled by appointment at a local Child Support office and generally take less than 30 minutes. A swab is used to collect skin cells from the inside cheek area of the mouth for the mother, the child and the man believed to be the father. The samples are sealed and sent to the genetic testing lab, along with a picture of each person. The lab sends the results to the Child Support office about two weeks after the DNA samples are taken and then they are mailed to the mother and alleged father.


Before determining the amount of child support payments, you have to determine which parent will be the “majority parent” and which will be the “non-majority parent,” unless you plan for equal timesharing. Whoever has the child the majority of overnights is the majority parent. After this determination is made, the child support amount to be paid by the non-majority parent will be calculated based on income. In some cases, the majority parent may still have to pay the non-majority parent due to their respective incomes.

* This does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions specific to your situation, contact your attorney.

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