On June 15, 2017, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 590 (“SB 590”) into law. SB 590 directs the Department of Revenue to provide parents with a proposed Standard Parenting Time Plan in Title IV-D child support cases. The bill also authorizes the Department of Revenue to establish agreed-upon parenting plans. Further, SB 590 waives court costs for families in a Title IV-D case who cannot agree on a parenting plan and are asking the courts to establish a plan.
TITLE IV-D CASES
Title IV-D of the Social Security Act requires each state to set up an administrative mechanism for establishing and enforcing child support orders. Florida tasks the Department of Revenue with these administrative duties.
The Department of Revenue oftentimes steps in to establish child support when a parent seeks welfare or other government benefits. The idea is that it is the duty of both parents to financially support a child. Further, a parent should utilize child support from the other parent before the government provides state benefits.
The Department of Revenue may also administratively enforce a child support order created by the courts.
SB 590 STANDARD PARENTING TIME PLANS
Prior to SB 590, the Department of Revenue did not have authority to establish parenting plans. However, when the law goes into effect, the Department will be required in most cases to send a proposed Standard Parenting Time Plan to the parents.
Though parenting plans are based primarily on the best interests of children, and the State does not favor any time-sharing schedule over any other, it provides the Standard Parenting Time Plan as an option.
The Standard Parenting Time Plan includes the following time between the children and the parent paying child support:
- Every other weekend;
- One evening per week from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.;
- Thanksgiving Break during even-numbered years;
- Half of winter break every year;
- Spring break during even-numbered years;
- Two weeks every summer.
If the parents agree to the Standard Parenting Plan, a child support hearing officer will establish that plan and base child support on the plan.
AGREED UPON PARENTING PLANS
SB 590 does not only allow a hearing officer to establish the Standard Parenting Time Plan. Rather, a child support hearing officer may establish any other parenting plan agreed upon by the parents. Accordingly, this may be the perfect opportunity for the parents to utilize mediation or the collaborative process if they cannot come up with a parenting plan on their own. The parenting plan will then be the basis of child support.
WAIVER OF COURT FILING FEE
In Title IV-D cases, a child support hearing officer is only authorized to establish the Standard Parenting Time Plan or another parenting plan if the parents agree. The hearing officer IS NOT authorized to impose a parenting plan on the parents.
Accordingly, if the parents do not agree to a parenting plan for the hearing officer to establish, SB 590 directs the Department of Revenue to provide the parents with a petition to establish a parenting plan through the court system. Further, SB 590 waives the normal filing fee (generally $300-400) to file the petition with the clerk of the court.
ENFORCEMENT OF PARENTING PLANS
SB 590 does not permit the Department of Revenue to enforce parenting plans. Further, it does not appear that courts can enforce parenting plans established by a child support hearing officer.
Accordingly, if parents wish to establish an enforceable parenting plan, it appears that they could go through the Department of Revenue, get a waiver of the court filing fee to file a petition with the court, agree to a parenting plan via mediation or collaborative practice, and have a court ratify the parenting plan.
Though SB 590 provides a new avenue to establish parenting plans, those parenting plans will not be enforceable. Accordingly, it is probably still best to get a court to ratify an agreed upon parenting plan.
SB 590 goes into effect January 1, 2018.