Paying Support In Family Law Matters
How child support and alimony is paid can vary widely from case to case and county to county. There are also big differences in the way child support and alimony payments were ordered by courts several years ago and how they are typically being ordered now.
How payments are made should be done according to how the court Order states that they should. Instructions are usually outlined in your Final Judgment and/or Settlement Agreement. If you are unsure or if the instructions are not clear, you should contact your family law attorney. It is important to review these documents thoroughly and follow those instructions carefully.
General Tips For Payors
- If you are paying through the Florida State Disbursement Unit (FLSDU) or the clerk of court, setup your account as soon as possible and make your payments on time.
- Be sure you are clear about what you owe, when payments begin, when payments end, and how often you must pay (ie, weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc).
- Make sure payments are paid on time.
- Keep receipts/documentation for all payments whether made through the FLSDU, the Clerk of The Court or directly to another person so you have evidence and proof of your payment(s).
- Discuss with your attorney what the consequences may be for paying late or making incomplete payments.
There are many ways in which payments can be ordered to be made. It is even possible that you could be ordered to pay by multiple methods. For example, child support may be paid through the FLSDU and Alimony directly to the ex-spouse. Below is some general information and helpful tips about several of the common payment methods.
Florida State Disbursement Unit (FLSDU)
The Florida State Disbursement Unit is a state run organization that provides a centralized place to both pay and receive child support. If you have been ordered to have pay deducted from your paycheck or to make payments directly to the Florida State Disbursement Unit you’ll be pleased to know that once you get everything setup, the process of making your child support or alimony payments can be easy, accurate and reliable.
Setup Your FLSDU Payment Account
Go to www.MyFlorida.com and setup an account to make your payment. You can pay on the website by transferring money from your bank account, by credit card (an extra fee will be applied for credit cards), or by making a payment at support agent locations (such as Western Union, Amscot).
Often your account cannot be setup with the FLSDU until several working days after the final judgment or order of support. If you cannot setup an account and a payment is due, please contact your attorney for direction on how to make your payment. You may be able to make the payment directly with the clerk of court or there may be language in the order or judgment instructing you how to pay during the account setup period.
Once the account is setup, some Clerk of Courts will also allow you to make payments directly to them. Clerk’s usually only accept support payments by cash or money order. If needed, call your Clerk of Court in advance to see if this is an option.
Payments By Income Withholding Order From Your Paycheck
Many times when support is ordered the Court will require the payments be withheld directly from your paycheck. The court does this by creating an Order called an Income Withholding Order (IWO). An IWO is an Order of the court sent to the employer directing the employer to withhold the support from the employee’s paycheck and forwarding the money directly to the State (Florida State Disbursement Unit). Even though money is withheld from your paycheck, you are still responsible for ensuring you are paying the correct amount each month. Please also read our tips, reminders and warnings about paying by income withholding orders.
Paying Directly to The Clerk of Court
Some circuit courts require certain support payments to be made directly to the Clerk of Court. The Clerk accepts payment and forwards the money to the other party themselves. The courts are very good at this process and it usually works very smoothly. One of the big benefits of dealing with the court directly is that you can walk in and speak to someone in person if you have a problem or question which you can’t do with the FLSDU! Every clerk’s process is a little different. Contact the Clerk of Court directly and ask them how to begin making your payments.
Making Payments Directly To The Other Party
If you are ordered to make payments directly to another party, then do so according to the Order. Make sure you are clear as to when the payments are due and do not make assumptions. For example, if the Order says that payment of $x is due every month beginning on October 1st consistent with your pay cycle, make sure you understand if the entire payment is due by the 1st or at some other time of the month (related to your pay cycle for example).
Make all payments in a manner that you can prove you made the payment. For example, make payments by check and keep copies of the cancelled checks. If you make payments by cash, make sure and get a signed receipt from the person you are making the payment to.
Tips for Avoiding and Correcting Errors
Here are a few tips to avoid mistakes and ways to identify and correct errors when making child support and alimony payments.
- Pay by a method you can track and prove you made payments (like a check) and/or get a receipt for the payment.
- Monitor the first few months of payments very carefully. Mistakes, administrative delays and problems can easily happen when opening your account and getting started making payments.
- Keep proof of all payments you have made (keep for many years after the payments have ended)
- If you are paying through the FLSDU or Clerk of Court, check the balance periodically to confirm you are current.
- If the balance is incorrect, ask for a ledger, or accounting, of all transactions for your account since it was opened (or since it was last correct). Compare this to what you actually paid and you should see the errors.
- Be pro-active in correcting errors. They are usually easier to fix early. If you wait for months or years to pass by, you may accrue interest, penalties and unnecessary legal costs.
- Keep your address and other contact information up to date with the Clerk of Court and the organization or person you are making payments to so you will receive notification of any problems.