If you are a parent who has made additional child support payments voluntarily so that your child(ren) is/are fully provided for, you may be wondering if you can apply those overpayments towards your future child support. In other words, are you entitled to a credit against your future child support obligation for the excess support you have paid in the past out of your own volition? That would depend on whether you had an agreement with the other parent for the excess payments to be an advance on your future support payments. So if credit is not available, are you then entitled to a refund of the overpayments? At the very least, that would depend on the amount of the overpayments, among other factors. For example, if you paid over and above your Court-ordered support for years and those funds were intended and, in fact, spent on the child(ren)’s current needs rather than held in an account for the child(ren)’s future needs, it is unlikely that you would be entitled to a refund as that would most likely cause an “undue hardship” on both the child(ren) and the other parent. See Mayfield v. Mayfield, 103 So. 3d 968, 971 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012) (internal citations omitted).
What about crediting past support payments or support arrearages? While generally payments made beyond Court-ordered support are not entitled to be credited against past Court-ordered support payments, just like with future support payments, there are, however, certain equitable circumstances where payments made either directly to or on behalf of the child in substantial compliance with the support order can be used to set off an arrearage. See Wooten v. Wooten, 510 So. 2d 1033, 1036 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987) (setting out a general rule of law that payments made by a father to or for the benefit of his children voluntarily and not pursuant to a divorce decree may not be credited by him against other amounts due and owing under the decree absent a showing of compelling equitable circumstances that would justify such a setoff); see also Goldman v. Goldman, 529 So. 2d 1260, 1261-62 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988) (concluding that the father was permitted a setoff for expenditures for college room and board).
You should also be aware how your ongoing voluntary payments may be used to confirm a recognition by the parents of their child(ren)’s increased needs, which, in turn, can support an upward modification of child support. So even if there is a pending supplemental petition for modification of child support and the actual petition does not state how the needs of the child(ren) had increased, your history of making voluntary payments over and above the Court-ordered amount would be in and of itself an indication that your child(ren)’s needs had in fact increased. See Tash v. Oesterle, 380 So. 2d 1316, 1319 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) (internal citations omitted); see also Hine v. Hine, 558 So. 2d 496, 499 (Fla. 3d DCA 1990); Reid v. Reid, 396 So. 2d 818, 820 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986) (holding that voluntary payments were sufficient evidence of increased need to preclude denial of an increase in child support; voluntary payments made by the father for the support of his children over a prolonged period of time may be considered as some evidence of a substantial change in the needs of the children).
Consequently, absent a written agreement between the parties, child support payments above and beyond Court-ordered payments will have no impact either on your future support payments or past support, unless, of course, there are compelling equitable circumstances that would justify a setoff.