In general, traditional gifts to children do not count towards child support obligations. But it is not that simple, as people can construe what a “gift” is or its purpose in numerous ways.
And because it is not that simple, Florida courts have had to examine in detail various scenarios when parents have asked for child-support credit for having made “gifts.” It can also depend on whether the thing gifted was money or something tangible.
Over the years, court opinions have set standards to determine when a parental gift to a child or a parent’s payment to a third party to benefit their child is in “substantial compliance” with the child support order. If so, it may be appropriate to deem it child support paid.
Courts also consider whether a gift is of benefit to the child in the nature of support. In other words, did the gift provide a necessity of life or support the child’s health, safety or well-being, or was it for fun or luxury?
The court also may look at whether characterizing a gift as support would be equitable or fair under the circumstances.
What have Florida courts said?
Examples of court findings that gifts were appropriate to set off against child support obligations:
- Where “competent substantial evidence” showed that the parent expressly made payments to the child and the former spouse’s mother to support the child under a parental support agreement
- Father’s payment of child’s rent, clothing, food, utilities and medical insurance after 18th birthday were proper for support arrearage setoff because in substantial compliance with support order
- Setoff appropriate based on equity where father paid educational expenses when he was not under obligation to do so
- Payments for child’s private school tuition, medical insurance and prescriptions were appropriate offsets
And examples of judges’ refusals to set off gifts against support:
- Money parent saved for future college expenses inappropriate for credit against support arrearages where he had no legal obligation to pay for college
- Payments for teens’ automobiles and related expenses not proper for set off
- No credit for paying for child’s airfare and cheerleading camp
- Parent’s gifts of air travel, computer and spending money were not appropriate for setoff
- No setoff for payment of book and medical expenses where parental agreement specifically required father to pay these separate from support payments
- Jewelry and designer accessories were true gifts not in the nature of support
An experienced family lawyer can provide information and guidance on these issues. In particular, an attorney can assist in gathering and presenting solid evidence about the nature of a gift as well as of the gifting parent’s intentions.