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Understanding Child Support in Florida

This article is written to help understand Florida’s Child Support Guidelines. The first common misconception is that only one of the two parents owes a duty of support to the children. In Florida, both parents have a duty to financially support their children and Florida’s Child Support Guidelines considers both parents’ financial obligations. However, while both parents owe a duty of support, only one parent has a child support payment obligation which is calculated by applying Florida’s child support guidelines.

Many people think that if they have joint custody, rotating custody, 50/50 time sharing, or whatever it is called (as of October 1, 2008 it is referred to as “time sharing”), that because the children reside equally with both parents, that neither parent will pay to the other child support payments. This is most often not true. There are four major elements in calculating child support pursuant to Florida’s Child Support Guidelines, they are: (1) the incomes of the parents, (2) the percentage of overnight time sharing, (3) the costs of health insurance covering the children and (4) the cost of daycare for the children. Percentage overnight time sharing (visitation) is only one of the four major elements and that percentage only is considered when both parents have “substantial shared parenting” (eg. both parents have more than 20% overnight time sharing with the children.) Where one parent has less than 20% time sharing, then the element of overnight percentage time sharing is not considered. Remember, child support belongs to the children, not to the parents.

EXAMPLE 1. For example, if guidelines indicates that based on the parents’ combined incomes that the combined financial obligation of both parents to the children is $1,000 per month, and the children reside 50/50 with both parents, the children are in need of $500 per month in each household ($500 for 15 days with Mom and $500 for 15 days with Dad). In this example, when Dad makes 60% of the income and Mom makes 40% of the income, Dad’s financial obligation to the children is $600 and Mom’s is $400 per month. Therefore, Dad will have a child support payment obligation to Mom of $100 per month, and both households will consequently have $500 available for the children each month.

EXAMPLE 2. Let’s take it one step further. Assume there are 2 children, Dad earns $30,000 annually, Mom earns $30,000 annually, Mom pays $200 per month toward health insurance premiums for the children, and there are no day care expenses. The following is Dad’s payment obligation to Mom depending on how much time sharing (visitation) Dad has with the children: (Example 2 Child Support Worksheet)

A. When Dad has less than 20% time sharing with the children, his payment obligation to Mom equals $757.50 per month. (If Mom has less than 20% time sharing, she continues to pay $200 towards health plus $575.50 to Dad).

B. When Dad has 40% time sharing with the children, his payment obligation to Mom equals $297.25 per month.

C. When Dad has 50% time sharing with the children, his payment obligation to Mom equals $100.00 per month.

EXAMPLE 3. Assume that everything remains the same, but Dad earns $60,000 annually: (Example 3 Child Support Worksheet)

A. When Dad has less than 20% time sharing with the children, his payment obligation to Mom equals $1,281.66 per month. (If Mom has less than 20% time sharing, she continues to pay $200 towards health plus $464.34 to Dad).

B. When Dad has 40% time sharing with the children, his payment obligation to Mom equals $809.03 per month.

C. When Dad has 50% time sharing with the children, his payment obligation to Mom equals $547.13 per month.

Florida also has safeguards in place when one parent tries to shirk his/her financial responsibility to the children. This goes to the element of income. For example, if a Dad refuses to work because he doesn’t want to make child support payments to Mom, a Florida Judge could “impute” income to Dad for the purposes of calculating child support. When a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, a Florida Judge may “impute” to that parent the amount he/she earned prior to becoming unemployed or underemployed. Indeed, if a Mom chooses to stay at home to raise subsequent children (not Dad’s children), a Florida Judge may “impute” income to Mom when calculating child support. Mom’s decision to remove herself from the workforce to raise subsequent children, in Florida, does not relieve her of her financial obligation to her older children. “Impute,” in this sense, means that when calculating a parent’s financial obligation to the children, a false figure will be placed in the underemployed or unemployed parent’s column.

We hope this article has provided you with a basic understanding regarding child support in Florida. There are additional items, other than salary, that could be considered income (eg. rental property income). If we can assist you in a family law action recently filed against you by helping you complete the forms, please contact us. If you are planning on filing a dissolution (divorce) or paternity (custody) action in Florida, without the assistance of an attorney, and would like our assistance in preparing the necessary documents to file, please contact us.

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