Calculating Child Support
Child support is an important issue to be resolved in a divorce or separation or for parents who have never married and are deciding on custody matters. Often, the amount of support is highly contested in divorces or custody proceedings. Florida law has some guidelines, though, to help to ensure fairness for children and their parents. To be sure that a fair outcome results, call an attorney experienced in child support matters to advocate for you and your child.Child Support Guidelines
As in most states, Florida’s statutes include child support guidelines. These guidelines determine how much a child needs and how much a parent must pay in order to ensure fairness and protect the child’s interests. The court will use the guidelines to create a child support plan. The guidelines are also used any time a support order is modified, to review the order to see if it needs modification.
The court considers certain factors in a child support determination, including:
- Each parent’s income;
- The child’s healthcare and childcare expenses; and
- The standard needs for the child.
The child’s standard needs are calculated by using a table that lists support amounts based on the child’s age and the parents’ net income. This amount is an estimate of the amount that the parents would have spent on the child had they not divorced or separated.
To calculate a child support order, the standard amount is divided proportionally between the parents based on their respective incomes. Because the amount of child support depends on both parents’ incomes, this can mean that a parent paying support for four children pays less than a parent paying support for only one child.Financial Affidavits
To determine the guideline amount, both parents must file financial affidavits detailing their expenses and income. From these affidavits, the court will calculate each parent’s gross income, then deduct certain expenses, such as taxes, alimony, and health insurance payments, to arrive at the net income needed for the guideline amount calculation. If a parent is voluntarily underemployed, the court may impute income so that the parent cannot escape child support obligations.Variations
The standard support amount from the table is a presumptive amount, meaning that generally, the court must order that amount of support. However, the court does have some discretion to vary from the guideline amount. For example, a child may be disabled or may have high medical costs, necessitating a variation.
The court can order an amount 5% higher or lower than the guideline amount if circumstances warrant. If it circumstances are such that the court determines that the variation should be greater, it must make written finding explaining why deviation from the guideline amount is necessary.Modification
Either parent may request a review and modification of a child support order. To modify a child support order, either parent’s financial circumstances must have changed such that the guideline amount of child support has changed by at least 10%. The court must then reconsider based on the statutory guidelines.
If you have any questions about your child support order, or if you are undergoing custody proceedings, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.