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Child Support Lawyer

Child support can be a stressful issue for many couples during and after a divorce.

When you need help coming to a fair arrangement or modifying your existing payments, you need child support lawyer Donna J. Sutton.

Our firm, serving St. Petersburg, Bartow, and Lakeland, FL, is here to provide the advocacy you need.

Need Legal Advice in a Child Support Dispute?

Your child's best interests always come first. If you are currently in a child support dispute with your child's other parent, let our lawyer help you. We can help with every aspect of your divorce, including child custody. Contact our law firm serving Lakeland, St. Petersburg, and Bartow, FL, now.

Florida Child Support Laws

Smiling Children

Child support is the responsibility of every parent. To ensure children are provided for following a divorce or separation, the State of Florida has child support guidelines to determine each parent's financial responsibility. The amount is based on several factors, including:

Financial Resources

Your financial resources include not only salary or monthly income, but your current assets. It also includes settlements, disability and social security benefits, and any other legal form of payment.

Time Sharing

The court takes into account the amount of time each parent has the child in their care. This is called child custody in many states—in Florida, it's called time sharing. This percentage relates directly to the share of financial responsibility. If you have the majority of time with your children, you may be entitled to a greater amount of support.

Child Care Costs

Child care costs include all the expenses involved in raising a child. This covers everything from basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, healthcare) to daycare, education, and extracurricular activities. 

It can be difficult to understand calculation of child support payments, and Ms. Sutton is here to answer your questions and advocate for an arrangement that serves your child's best interests. Parents throughout Polk County can turn to our lawyer for the board-certified counsel your case deserves.

Clients Recommend Sutton Law Firm

"Debra and her associates are the best. If you value the outcome of your case then I highly recommend Sutton Law Firm." Donald Taylor

How Child Support Factors Relate

Child support payments are often made by the parent with the lesser amount of time sharing to the parent with the greater amount of time sharing. The rationale is that the person with the most time (often called the custodial parent in other states) is responsible for providing the greatest amount of care for the child.

However, child support is also granted in situations where parents have equal time sharing if one parent earns a higher income. 

Why Trust Sutton Law Firm?

Ms. Sutton Is Board-Certified in Marital and Family Law

If you are a divorced parent, or planning or filing for divorce, you will likely encounter difficult problems that you can't handle alone. Child support attorney Debra J. Sutton has practiced family law and appellate law in Polk County for more than 25 years. She is one of less than 1% of lawyers in the state who are board-certified in marital and family law. Ms. Sutton has helped many clients like you navigate even the most complicated divorce and child support cases.

Contact our practice and speak to a lawyer about your family law needs today. You can request a consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Lakeland, St. Petersburg, and Bartow. Give us a call:

 (863) 533-8912

"I highly recommend her and her firm." Clients from the Lakeland Area Share Their Experiences


gary pallavicini


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Debra is the best- I’m not proud to admit that I have needed her services on more occasions than I care to admit. Each and every time I've needed her services she has been kind, professional and always gets results. Her and her staff have been very nice and super responsive. I highly recommend her and her firm. In Appreciation, Gary Pallavicini

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David Shippey


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If you are looking for quality counsel, I would highly recommend the Sutton Law Firm. I had the opportunity to work with Debra Sutton on 3 separate occasions over the last year. Each time I found her to be very thorough, planning for contingencies, recommending best practices, and always keeping her client’s needs first. If you need services, consider calling Debra first. I think you will be impressed as well.

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Helping Parents in Need Seek Child Support

The Sutton Law Firm is committed to helping parents throughout Lakeland, St. Petersburg, and Bartow, FL. We can help with your family law issues. Whether you need assistance enforcing a child support order or need to modify child support obligations due to a financial setback, our lawyer can help.

When Can I File for Child Support?

It is a common misconception that a child support court order is granted only in a divorce. While divorce is the most common reason to file for child support, it is not the only way to be eligible. Our clients in the greater Polk County region may also qualify if they:


While Florida is one of the few states that does not recognize legal separation, you can still file for time sharing (child custody) without initiating a divorce. 

Establish Paternity

When you take action to establish paternity, your case can also include a request for child support payments. 

What Can Child Support Cover?

Under Florida law, child support payments are only to be used for the care and benefit of your child. The parent who receives the payment makes the decision on what the payments are used for. Some examples of what child support can be used for include:
Doctor examining kid's knee

Medical Care

Expenses related to the care and health of your child are covered by child support. This includes doctor's visits, dental care, prescription medication, health insurance, and other costs needed to keep your child healthy. 

Little boy learning


An effective education is one of the most important factors when it comes to your child's future success. Tuition, payment for tutors, and prep classes for major tests can all be considered part of your child's education costs.

Girl with new clothes

Basic Necessities

Necessities like mortgage payments, rent, utility bills, clothing, transportation, and other costs needed to give your child a happy and healthy home environment are usually factored into child support payments. 

We Put You and Your Child's Interests First

Sutton Law Firm Can Help You Today

If you're in the process of separating from your child's other parent, our Polk County attorney knows it can be a difficult time. Child support attorney Ms. Sutton will guide you through your separation with sensitivity and care. 

Ms. Sutton can also help if you're seeking back child support payments or if you need a post-judgment modification. It can be tempting to keep the same status quo, but if there has been a change in your financial situation or your former spouse's finances, it may be in the best interest of your child to revisit your child support agreement. 

We have locations in Lakeland, St. Petersburg, and Bartow, making us convenient for those in Pinellas and Polk counties. To speak with our child support lawyer, contact our office online today or call:

(832) 533-8912

"My kids and I were going through a very difficult time of our lives. On top of that, I have to face the reality of divorce.

"At that time I was lost and confused and hired the first attorney who offered me a free consultation. That was my biggest mistake I had to endure for a long time until finally I said enough is enough. Debra Sutton took my case and from then on until now I'm very happy with the results.

"I definitely recommend Debra Sutton and her firm for any family matters from the simplest to the most difficult case."
Reyna Mejia

Reaching the Best Outcome In Your Case Collaborative Law for Child Support Disputes

During a separation or divorce, you and your ex may be unable to agree on the terms of child support, custody, and other matters. In these situations, it can be useful to have a lawyer to assist in creating a collaborative resolution.

Collaborative law is a negotiation process that happens outside of court. Rather than arguing before a judge, you and your former spouse meet in a neutral setting, accompanied by your respective attorneys. Facilitators, consultants, and even mediators help guide a discussion between both parents. The focus is always on your child's best interests and arriving at a compromise.

When you and your attorney engage in communication with your child's other parent outside of court, it can make the process much faster and less stressful. However, attorney Debra Sutton is not afraid to take a child support case to court if that is the best way to reach the right outcome.

Child Support Discussion

Enforcing Child Support Making Sure the Payments Your Child Is Owed Are Made

If the other parent hasn't met their child support obligations, the Sutton Law Firm can help your household receive the payments owed.

Seeking Delinquent Child Support

Whether you haven't received child support in a few months or more than a year, the Sutton Law Firm will help hold the other parent accountable. While we understand that financial circumstances change, that is no excuse for abandoning your child support obligations.

Felony Child Support Delinquency

The State of Florida takes child support obligations seriously. It is considered a felony if you owe $2,500 or more in unpaid child support after four consecutive months of non-payment. You can also be charged with a felony if you have a previous child support conviction or attempted to leave the state to avoid making child support payments.

Methods of Enforcement

Rather than jail time, penalties for late child support tend to involve methods of covering the payments that are owed. This could include garnishing wages, the seizure of property, seizure of bank accounts, withholding tax refunds, and suspension of business or occupational licenses.

Get the Help You Need from a Board-Certified Lawyer Contact the Sutton Law Firm to Discuss Your Case

If you feel like your child support arrangement fails to meet your children's needs, or that you are being asked to pay an amount of child support that is beyond your means, contact the Sutton Law Firm today. During a consultation at our Lakeland, St. Petersburg, or Bartow offices, Debra Sutton can review your case and explain your options based on custody and other factors.

Give Our Law Office a Call

(863) 533-8912

Top Reviews for Our Attorney Why Lakeland, St. Petersburg, and Bartow Choose the Sutton Law Firm


Jimmie Chestnut


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If you are looking for the most knowledgeable Attorney in Central Florida. Look no further. Debra and her staff are the best around. My advice to anyone that wants the best possible outcome for their case: Follow the staffs directions to the tee. Work as hard as you can to provide the detailed information that is needed for you case. The Sutton Law Firm is my go to firm, even if my needs are outside of their normal expertise. I would seek a referral, knowing that they have a working relationship with a number excellent Attorney's.

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Buddy Johnston


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Debra set up my corporation, has advised me in various legal matters and has referred me to a specialist when I need it, and has assisted my family and friends when they needed her help. She advised my sister and brother-in-law during their turbulent financial times, and my lifelong friend when he had many questions about his son's divorce. She has been benevolent in her legal advice to the volunteers of my nonprofit organization, and she referred a troubled business owner friend to a legal immigration specialist who solved her problem. Debra's advice has always been professional, knowledgeable and from her heart. I trust her and would refer her for any legal matter anyone might have as she has always gone the extra mile to address my concerns.

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Child Support FAQ

The team at our Lakeland, St. Petersburg, and Bartow law offices answer numerous questions about child support, custody, and other family law matters for many clients. Below are some of the most common questions we receive from parents throughout Florida:

How long does child support last?

In most cases, child support obligations terminate when a child reaches the age of 18. It can be extended to the age of 19 if the child is still in high school. The exception is children with special needs who will need continued care through adulthood. 

If you have more questions about your child support obligations and wish to speak to an attorney, contact Sutton Law Firm today. You can send us a message or request a consultation at our offices in Lakeland, St. Petersburg, or Bartow. 

Is alimony like child support?

Although the two are sometimes confused for being the same thing, child support and alimony are two separate court orders. Child support is used to split the costs of raising a child. Alimony is paid specifically for the benefit of a former spouse after a divorce.

Alimony can provide income to make sure a spouse's standard of living does not drop dramatically after a divorce. You do not need to have children with a spouse in order to receive or be ordered to pay alimony.

If you are going through a divorce, our Lakeland-area law office can simultaneously help you with both alimony and child support.

How are child support payments made?

Child support payments are made through the Florida Department of Revenue's State Disbursement Unit (SDU). These payments can be completed online, by mail, or via money transfer service. It will typically take four to seven business days for the payment to be processed.

What is temporary child support?

Temporary child support can be sought during the divorce process. These payments are intended to benefit the child while the divorce is unfolding. The stipulations of a temporary child support order will be followed until a permanent child support order is agreed upon and the divorce is finalized.

While temporary child support isn't necessary in all cases, it can help the custodial parent cover the costs of raising a child while a divorce is underway.

During a consultation at our law offices in Lakeland, St. Petersburg, or Bartow, we can review your divorce case and determine if temporary child support is worth pursuing.

Are vacations and travel
covered by child support?

Child support is designed to cover fun and entertainment while growing up, which may include vacations and travel expenses. Sometimes disputes arise between parents on how essential a trip may be, and could dovetail into disputes over parenting time. The lawyers at our firm can help in these disagreements if they arise.

Can I seek child support for my unborn child?

As of now, child support does not explicitly apply to unborn children. In other words, children have to be born in order to receive child support.

The pregnant parent can petition to establish paternity, which can then lead to child support and parenting time arrangements. Family court will ultimately have the discretion to determine if prenatal care and associated medical costs will be awarded once paternity is established.

"Professional but also caring" Lawyers Who Give Lakeland Peace of Mind


Vicki Watson


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I have hired Ms. Sutton twice and both times she has gone above and beyond. She is professional but also caring. More then once she called me to calm my anxiety about my case. Her professionalism and knowledge of the law in the courtroom made me glad she was my lawyer. Hopefully I never need a lawyer again, but if I do, I will hire Ms. Sutton.

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David Smith


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Recently necessity required yet again I reach out to Ms. Sutton for legal matters. Debra has handled my legal representation for family matters for over 13 years. Never has she waivered from anything but professional and effective legal representation. She will remain your advocate throughout any process from start to finish and continue to provide prompt service after the case is completed. If you need an attorney who will be YOUR advocate during stressful times, this is the one. You won’t be disappointed.

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Debra Sutton can help you in all family law matters, including child support and custody agreements.
Debra J. Sutton

Sutton Law Firm

Debra J. Sutton is an attorney who is board-certified in both appellate practice and marital and family law by the Florida Bar. At the Sutton Law Firm, with offices in Bartow, Lakeland, and St. Petersburg, Ms. Sutton, Mr. Kovschak, and their team provide individualized, compassionate, and private legal services. Our popular practice areas include:

You can request a consultation with our board-certified attorney right now by filling out our online form or calling (863) 533-8912.

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