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Child Support

Child support in Florida is based on each parent’s net income, on day-care and health/dental/vision insurance costs for the child(ren), and the number of “overnights” each parent spends with the child(ren). 

One way to calculate child support, once you have these numbers, is to fill out the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet which guides you through the calculations – i.e. what to subtract, divide from what, etc. You can also use the interactive child support form on the Florida Courts website.  I and most attorneys use family law financial software to make the calculations, and to help make it easier to compare different scenarios.  In addition, there are some other child support calculators on-line if you search, which may make the right calculations.  

Conceptually it can be a little difficult, but the child support worksheet first arrives at a number for the total support costs for the child(ren).  This is an amount set forth in the child support statute based on the parents’ combined net income and the number of children.  There is a chart in the statute and also in the instructions for the child support worksheet – the number of children is across the top of the chart, and combined net income levels on the side of the chart. The support amounts in the chart basically represent the judgment of the Florida legislature that, if you have x amount of income and y number of children, then the total amount to care and provide for the children is the amount set forth in the chart.  

Each parent’s share of the support amount is then their percentage share of the parents’ combined net income.  If one parent has less than 20% of the overnights with the child(ren), he or she pays his support amount to the other parent.  If each has at least 20% of the overnights, there is an additional adjustment/calculation which reduces the child support amount for the parent paying child support, based on him or her spending more time with the children. The lower a parent’s net income is compared to the other parent, and the more overnights he or she has, the more child support he or she will receive.  The worksheet has blanks to fill in and instructions for what to add, subtract, divide etc. to arrive at the bottom-line child support amount.

In addition to the base support amount set forth in the statute, many times each parent’s share of childcare and health insurance costs are included in the child support amount, although it is possible to leave these as separate items.  Each parent’s share of these expenses would be their percentage share of the parents’ combined net income.  So, for example, if the father’s net income (income after taxes, health insurance and certain other expenses) is $50,000 and the mother’s net income is $100,000, the mother’s share would be 66.7% and the father’s share 33.3%. 

As part of a case involving child support, each parent is required to complete a Florida Family Law Financial Affidavit, which includes spaces for the allowable deductions from gross income in calculating net income – so as part of completing the Financial Affidavit, you will arrive at the net income to use for calculating child support.  In calculating net income, alimony is included as income for the spouse receiving alimony and as a deduction for the spouse paying, so it is necessary to determine alimony if any, before child support.

Some of the key issues that can arise are:
  • disputes over what a spouse earns or has the ability to earn, and whether a spouse is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed
  • disputes over how much income a spouse has from a business
  • responsibility to pay for private school and significant extra-curricular expenses
  • who is responsible for travel costs if the parents don’t live near each other and the child’s school
  • the logistics for parents sharing out of pocket medical expenses
  • deviation from the guideline child support amount based on the unique circumstances of the case

Unless the parents ask the Judge to order otherwise, child support will be deducted from the payor’s paycheck, via what is called an Income Deduction Order, and paid through the State Disbursement Unit in Tallahassee, but the parents can request that support be paid directly to the payee. Florida law provides for automatic adjustment of child support as each child is no longer a minor, but this has to be included in the court order.

Call me at (954) 636-7498, or use the contact form on the website, and we can discuss the Child Support issues in your case.

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