How Child Support in Florida is Calculated

In most circumstances, divorce is difficult enough, but when children are involved, the complexities multiply exponentially. Child custody, parenting plans and child support must be added to the “mix” of issues to sort out among parents. While the court and the parents have some leeway regarding custody and parenting plans, the state of Florida has very clear laws regarding the award of child support. An attorney from The Law Place can explain the method in which child support is calculated as well as answer any other questions you may have regarding child support.

Florida Child Support Guidelines

In short, Florida child support awards are based on the income of each parent and how many overnight visits the children have with the non-custodial parent. According to Florida Statute 61.30, the parents’ “income” includes the following:

• All wages and salaries earned through employment
• Tips, overtime pay, commissions and earned bonuses from employment
• Business income (total receipts minus necessary business expenses)
• Self-employment income or income derived from a partnership, corporation or independent contract
• Income derived from disability benefits
• Any income from a workers’ comp settlement or weekly benefits
• Income from unemployment benefits
• Payments received from a pension, retirement or annuity
• Payments received through social security benefits
• Ongoing spousal support received from a prior marriage which is expected to continue
• Income received from rental property
• Income received from trusts, estates or royalties
• Any income derived from interest or dividends

“Income” calculations may not consider:

• Income from public assistance
• Anticipated income at a level not earned in the past unless the parent has recently obtained a degree, license or certification which will result in a significant increase in income
• Records of income which are more than five years old may not be considered

Net income is derived by deducting allowable expenses from the gross income. These allowable expenses include:

• Union dues which are mandatory rather than voluntary
• Retirement payments which are mandatory rather than voluntary
• Tax deductions (federal, state or local)
• Payments for health insurance (other than those paid for a qualifying child)
• Child support paid for other children
• Spousal support (awarded by the court) and paid for a previous marriage or the marriage at hand

Once the net income is determined for each parent, both amounts will be added together in order to reach a “combined net income.” Child support will then be determined by the Florida child support chart which shows a precise amount for this amount plus the number of children to be considered. This amount will be allocated between the parents based on the proportion to each parent’s income.


Instances in Which the Court Can Deviate From the Guidelines

The court can deviate from the minimum amount of child support determined by the state chart—but only by 5% unless such a deviation can be sufficiently justified. When such justification exists, the court can change the amount of the calculated child support by more than 5%. Some of the instances in which a deviation is allowed include:

• Extraordinary expenses for the child or children related to medical, psychological, educational or dental issues
• A child or children who have a source of independent income
• When one or both parents experience seasonal variations in their income or expenses
• The consideration of the greater needs related to older children
• A child who is disabled and has special needs which were previously met through the regular family budget
• Total available assets of each parent as well as any assets held by the child or children
• How the IRS tax credit for Child and Dependent Care or Earned Income Credit impacts each parent
• If a parent is currently paying child support for a child from a prior marriage, the total for both amounts of child support cannot exceed 55% of the parent’s gross income
• If the child spends a significant amount of time with the parent paying child support (but still less than 20% of overnight visits) the financial obligation of that parent may be reduced
• Other adjustments deemed necessary by the court in order to reach an equitable result

Effects of Parenting Time on Child Support Obligations

If the parenting plan contains significant time-sharing which results in each parent having the children for 20% or more overnights per year, extra calculations will be required. The amount of health insurance premiums, medical, dental and prescription costs which are not covered by health insurance and the cost of monthly child care will also factor in to the final amount of child support. These adjustments can be very complicated; the attorneys at The Law Place can explain the child support guidelines to you, helping you determine what the final amount will be based on your individual parenting plan.

Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment

The courts are aware of the fact that some parents may attempt to dodge their child support obligations by quitting a current job or failing to properly seek employment. In some instances a parent will quit a well-paying job which requires specific skills in order to take a lower-paying position, simply to avoid paying child support. The courts in the State of Florida have taken a strong position regarding such behavior. Should the Florida court find that either parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, they may choose to calculate that parent’s income based on recent work history or occupational qualifications. Parents who refuse to participate in a child support hearing or fail to provide sufficient income information could find the court will simply put the necessary numbers in on their own. Should a parent neglect to pay child support, the Child Support Enforcement Program under the Florida Department of Revenue will aggressively pursue that support on behalf of the other parent. Calling an attorney at The Law Place can significantly ease your mind regarding the award of child support, making the process go much more smoothly for you.

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