Child Support in Florida.
Under Florida laws, both parents are obligated to provide financial support for their minor children, during the marriage and following a divorce. Florida courts use specific methods of calculation to determine how much child support will be paid by one parent to the other.
In many divorce and custody proceedings, child support can be one of the most important determinations the court will make. Generally, a determination will be made as to which parent is the primary residential parent, or which parent the children will primarily live with. Once this determination is made, the court will calculate the amount the non-residential parent will pay in child support to the residential parent.
The court, after going through the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, will order payment of child support which can vary only five percent from the final guideline amount. This variation will take into consideration any relevant factors such as the child(ren)'s individual needs, the age of the child(ren), the current standard of living and the financial status and ability of each parent. A variation of more than five percent may only be awarded when a written finding which explains why staying with the guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate is included.
Determining Each Parent's Income
The income of each parent is an important starting place to determine a final child support amount. Gross income includes salary or wages, any bonuses, commissions, tips or overtime pay, business income from self-employment, partnerships or corporations (business income equals gross receipts of the business minus ordinary and necessary expenses), disability benefits, workers' comp benefits and settlements, pension, retirement, annuity payments, social security benefits, unemployment benefits, spousal support from a prior marriage, interest, dividends, rental income and any income from estates.
If one parent is unemployed or underemployed, a monthly income will be imputed for that parent; if the unemployment or underemployment is voluntary, probable earnings will be determined based on recent work history.
If either parent fails to participate in determining child support amounts by providing income, an income may be automatically imputed to that parent.
Deductions Allowed From Each Parent's Income
After each parent's income is determined, certain deductions from that income will be allowed, including the following:
Retirement payments, child support or spousal support for a previous marriage, health insurance payments, federal, state and local income tax deductions, federal insurance payments and union dues.
Health insurance premiums for the children
Cost of daycare
Certain other allowable deductions
Children with extraordinary medical, educational, dental or psychological expenses may change the amount of the support payments, as can any independent income of the child. Generally, older children will have greater needs, therefore the age of the children can be a factor in the adjustment of child support amounts.
All assets available to both parents and to the child will be factored into the final amount as well as the impact of earned income credits, child care tax credits and the dependency exemption claimed on Federal taxes by one parent. When a Parenting Plan has the child spending a significant amount of time-yet less than 20 percent of overnights - with one parent, the amount of child support may be reduced accordingly to the parent whose financial expenditures for the child are reduced as a result.
Should the parent who is obligated to make regular child support payments have other children living with him or her who were born or adopted after the order of child support, this will generally not be considered by the court as a reason to reduce child support amounts, although if that parent takes secondary employment primarily to support subsequent children, this extra amount may not be considered to modify the current amount of child support.
As an example, if a parent's ex is currently paying $400 per month child support, then remarries and has three more children and is forced to take on a second job to support those children, the receiving parent is precluded from asking the court for an upward modification of child support based on that extra income.
Calculating Child Support
After determining income and deductions, the number of children from the marriage will be factored in, and the court will allocate a percentage of the net income to be paid by each parent. If the non-residential parent has the children for at least 73 overnight visits each year, this will be calculated into the final determination of child support and will result in an adjustment to the amount of child support.
The Child Support Guidelines Worksheet can give you a good idea of how much money you will be required to pay or will receive, however the final amount will be determined based on your individual circumstances.
The court can consider outside sources of income available to the child, as well as whether a child will require special medical, dental or psychological care. In the end, assuming both parents are honest about income, the mathematical formula offered by the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet can make the determination of child support the simplest component in your divorce.