Every parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child.
BUT WHO GETS TO DECIDE WHAT, WHEN AND HOW MUCH?
Florida has created a process that simplifies the process of determining child support so that parents can avoid the need for litigation. This system determines the amount of support that each parent should be provided in situations where the parents and child(ren) are not living together in an intact family.
Child support is an issue in the following types of cases:
- Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) actions
- Paternity cases (where paternity of the father is established)
- Actions for Injunctions (to keep a party away) in domestic violence cases
- Petitions (requests) for support unconnected with dissolution of marriage
- Support proceeding brought by the Department of Revenue to establish an obligation of support
THE GUIDELINES TO DETERMINE CHILD SUPPORT IN FLORIDA:
Florida has established child support guidelines as part of the Florida Statutes*.
STEP #1: COLLECTING THE INFORMATION
Generally speaking, to calculate the child support guideline amount, the following variables must be determined:
- Gross monthly income for each parent
- The number of children
- Net income (gross income reduced by allowable deductions)
- The number of overnights that the child(ren) will spend with each parent (see article)
- The cost of child care (if any)
- Health insurance premium for the child(ren)
Once the above amounts have been determined, you can calculate the child support amount.
STEP #2 WHAT TO ADD IN AND WHAT TO TAKE OUT
Gross income includes wages, commissions, self-employment income, disability benefits, pension, and retirement benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment compensation, interest and dividends, royalties, and spousal support.
Monthly income may be attributed to an unemployed or underemployed parent if the unemployment or underemployment is voluntary.
Allowable deductions from gross income include:
- Federal, state and local income tax deductions
- Self-employment taxes
- Mandatory union dues
- Mandatory retirement payments
- Health insurance payments, other than for the child(ren)
- Court-Ordered support for other children which is actually paid
- Court-ordered spousal support
STEP #3: THE FINAL CALCULATION
After net income for both parents is determined, the income is added together and the Support Guidelines are examined for the joint income calculated. Different amounts are shown in the guidelines depending on the number of children.
The amount of child support is then divided by the parents in accordance with their percentage of the total net income. For example, if the guideline amount is $300 and Parent ‘A’’s net income is 2/3 of the total net income, Parent ‘A” is responsible for $200.
The formula for calculating child support can be adjusted if a parent exercises fewer than 73 overnights.
These guidelines are designed to make the process of determining child support in Florida straightforward, (hopefully) removing the need for litigation. But it isn’t always so simple. If you have minor children and are going through a separation, filing for divorce, defining paternity, or looking to gain or modify custody, speak to an experienced Family Attorney to learn what your rights are.
*The child support guidelines are contained in Florida Statute § 61.30.