I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE. WHAT DO I DO?
It is not unusual that after a separation or a break-up where a minor child is involved, that one party will turn to the State of Florida for financial assistance. When this occurs, the other parent may receive something in the mail from the Florida Department of Revenue (“DOR”) stating that a child support case has been started against them. Here's what to do if you receive a letter from the DOR.
1) DO NOT IGNORE IT!
Once the DOR has become involved, a case will not stop simply because they do not hear back from you. In fact, this will almost certainly leave you with the worst possible outcome because you will not be able to present any evidence to help your case or to offer any testimony. Normally, you will receive a notice in the mail that a child support case has been initiated against you, and you will have 20 days to notify DOR, in writing, that you would like the case to proceed in Circuit Court instead of being heard by an Administrative Hearing Officer. While proceeding in Circuit Court is a more formal process, it does normally give you more time to prepare your case, hire an attorney, etc.
2) UNDERSTAND WHAT DOR IS ASKING FOR!
In some cases, people either ignore a DOR case or just agree with whatever they are sent thinking that all of the issues involving your child or children will be handled together. This is not the case. While DOR can consider any timesharing or visitation that both parents are having with the minor child when determining support, DOR cannot order permanent timesharing or parental responsibility. If you are the father of the child and have never been married to the mother, this means that you may be left with no rights to your son or daughter while still having to pay child support. The issues of timesharing and parental responsibility need to be handled through a paternity or divorce action and will not be handled by a DOR hearing. This can result in you having to litigate two separate cases, which costs you more money and more time.
3) HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF?
The easiest and first way to protect yourself if you split with the parent of your child is to keep track of any payments made to the other parent for the child’s expenses. Never pay in cash, as cash cannot be tracked. A money order, bank transfer, or check is always best so a record of your payment history will exist. Any payments made during the separation will likely be credited back to the payor. The second thing anyone should do that receives a notification from DOR is to contact an attorney to explain to you the next steps, options, and discuss the best strategy for you going forward.
The Bulger Firm offers free consultations to individuals seeking advice on their child support issues. For your own peace of mind, call 904-608-3694 to speak with an experienced family law attorney today.