Florida Child Support Law
A discussion about Florida child support law
What is child support?
Child support is a payment from the higher income parent to the lower income parent that is intended to pay for basic living necessities of the child. Those necessities include items such as living quarters, electricity, water, and food. Child support is not deductible on taxes. A common misconception is that child support must go specifically to the child. It is a general purpose reimbursement to cover the cost of life when a household has kids. Child support in Florida is established by the courts and normally is guided by a chart published in the Florida statutes.
Florida Child Support laws are pretty clear: If there are minor children there is child support. That is a true statement in 99% of child custody cases. The courts and the child support statutes are very clear on this issue – the parents of children must pay child support.
Child support pays for the roof over the children’s heads, electricity, water, food, and other essentials. In many cases support also pays for health insurance. The parent that has the children the majority of the time receives support and the other parent pays support.
Try Our New Child Support Calculator
** Results: Non Custodial Parent = Non Majority Parent
Even though there are Florida child support guidelines, the calculation of support is not absolutely black and white. There are considerations for taxes, daycare, medical, and other issues that can significantly change the amount to pay or receive.
Our dedicated team of child support attorneys are available for free consultations. Call 800-469-3486 to set up a free meeting.
This online child support calculator will not work for combined incomes under $650/month or over $10,000/month. See notes below for incomes exceeding the maximum amount.
The actual child support amount is dependant on other factors which are not addressed by this basic calculation. This service is intended to give a rough estimate of child support and does not substitute for individualized legal advice. The actual child support amount you pay or receive is determined by a family law court.
FLORIDA CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATION FOR COMBINED INCOMES OVER $10,000
For combined monthly available income greater than $10,000, the obligation shall be the minimum amount of support shown on the above support calculator plus the following percentages multiplied by the amount of income over $10,000: One Child: 5%, Two Children: 7.5% , Three Children: 9.5%, Four Children: 11%, Five Children: 12%, Six Children: 12.5%
Overview of Child Support in Florida
While raising children is expensive, the financial obligations can feel even more extreme when they are coming from two separate accounts. It is simply an unfortunate fact of life that a family cannot live as cheaply divided as it can together. The living standards of the entire family are often lowered after a divorce, leaving courts in the position of dividing already scarce financial resources. A family together learns to adjust financially to the changing needs of children; among divorced parents, these changing needs often require a return trip to court in order to have the amount of child support adjusted. When you add these issues together with a parent who refuses to make court-ordered child support payments or cannot, due to circumstancesbeyond his or her control, you can understand why Florida family courts stay packed and overwhelmed. In the state of Florida both parents have a legal obligation to support their child according to their ability to do so. Florida follows the “Income Shares Model,” which means courts estimate the amount parents would spend on their child or children if the family were still living together in one household. This amount is then divided between the parents, based on their respective incomes. The amount paid for the child’s health insurance and daycare, along with the total number of overnight visitations for each parent, will factor in to the end amount of child support.
It is important for both parents to remember child support payments are meant to help cover the costs of raising a child, and are important to the child’s well-being. The parent paying child support should keep in mind the payments are to take care of his or her children and should remember that the parent with primary custody probably faces unexpected child-related expenses on an almost daily basis. The parent receiving child support should keep in mind that child support payments and visitation are two completely separate issues. A late child support check should never trigger withholding of visitation. Whenever possible it is always in the child’s best interests to have regular interaction with both parents, regardless of whether child support is paid on time. Parents should note that Florida Statutes specifically forbid conditioning parenting time on the payment of money
If you and your spouse are able to have discussions regarding your finances and how the divorce will impact the children financially, it is a good conversation to have. In most marriages, one spouse typically handles the finances; while this can work well in a marriage, it can become problematic during a divorce. Talking calmly about how your division of finances will impact not only your own lives, but the lives of your children, can be extremely beneficial before you end up in front of a judge who will determine those questions without your input. It is likely you have many questions regarding how child support in the state of Florida is calculated and paid. Below, you will find the answers to many of those questions.
How is the Process for Child Support Calculations Started?
To begin the process of determining the amount of child support payments, which parent will be the majority parent and which will be the non-majority parent must be determined. After this determination is made, the amount of child support to be paid by the non-majority parent will be calculated. Each parent’s net income is determined based on gross income minus any allowable deductions.
What Constitutes “Income?”
The income of each parent is the starting point in determining child support. Gross income for each parent includes wages and salary, commissions, overtime pay, bonuses, tips, self-employment business income, income from partnerships or corporations, workers’ comp benefits, spousal support from a prior marriage, disability benefits, pension, retirement, annuity payments, benefits from social security, unemployment benefits, rental income, interest and dividends. When one parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court may impute a monthly income for that parent. If such unemployment or underemployment is voluntary, earnings may be based on that parent’s recent work history.
What are Allowable Deductions?
The deductions allowed for parents in the calculation of child support include the following:
- Health insurance premiums for the children;
- Daycare costs for the children;
- Federal, state and local income tax deductions;
- Health insurance payments;
- Child support and spousal support being paid for a prior marriage;
- Union dues;
- Federal insurance payments, and
- Mandatory retirement payments.
How are the Child Support Payments Calculated?
After taking income and allowable deductions into consideration, and arriving at the parents’ gross income, the number of children from the marriage will be factored in. The court then allocates a percentage of the net income to be paid by each parent. Adjustments to the amount of child support determined can be made based on whether the non-majority parent has at least 73 overnights each year. Individual circumstances of the parents will factor in to the amount of child support ordered, however there are online Florida child support charts which allow you to get a good idea of the amount which will be ordered.
Can a Florida Court Deviate From the Florida Child Support Guidelines?
While the “normal” calculations generally work well for most parents in the determination of child support, the Florida courts do have some discretion when setting child support amounts. Under Florida law, the court is only allowed to deviate by 5 percent unless there is justification for a larger deviation. A child who requires special or extraordinary medical, psychological or dental care could impact child support payments as could any outside sources of income available to the child. Deviations to the child support calculations could also apply when there are special needs related to a disabled child, the income or expenses of one or both parents varies seasonally, one parent has a large amount of personal assets or when the child spends a significant amount of time with the paying parent. If a parent pays child support from a prior marriage, the total garnished for both amounts of child support cannot exceed 55 percent of that parent’s gross income. This means the current child support payment may be reduced. But this limit is for garnishments from a paycheck. The absolute amount of monthly child support owed can exceed that amount.
Can I Receive Retroactive Child Support Payments?
Once child support payments are established, the paying parent may be responsible for retroactive child support for the time between the separation and the date the child support order goes into effect. Due to the mathematical nature of child support payments, this retroactive amount will be determined in the same manner as the regular child support payments.
If My Spouse and I Share Custody, Do I Have to Pay Child Support?
The state of Florida has largely eliminated the terms “custody,” and “primary or secondary residential parent,” replacing them with “majority time sharing” and “equal time sharing.” If both parents enjoy equal time-sharing, child support will still be calculated according the Florida Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, and is dependent on each parent’s income, the percentage of time sharing (usually overnights), health insurance, uncovered medical expenses and the costs of daycare when applicable. As the time-sharing of the paying parent increases (more overnight visits), he or she will likely pay less child support.
When My Child Turns 18 Can I Stop Paying Child Support?
Most parents who pay child support operate under the assumption those payments will cease the day the child turns 18. In truth, there are other factors which may come into play regarding when the parent can stop paying child support. In theory, court-ordered child support in Florida does end when a minor child turns 18. That being said, if your child support order was entered before October 2011, you may be obligated to take additional steps in order to terminate your child support obligations. If you have multiple children, you will be required to file a request to terminate child support each time a child reaches the age of 18. In some instances a child who is over the age of 18, but still in high school may continue to receive child support until graduation from high school. Children with disabilities may also require child support payments far longer than the age of 18.
My Ex Quit His/Her Job to Avoid Paying Child Support—What Can I Do?
While it is hoped each parent will take their obligations to support their children seriously, and will not attempt to somehow get out of those obligations, in fact, some parents do just that. A parent paying child support may think if he or she simply quits a current job, child support payments will no longer be required. Nothing could be further from the truth. Florida courts do not look kindly upon parents who attempt to dodge their financial obligations to their children. If it can be shown the paying parent quit a job purposely in order to avoid these obligations, the court may impute income for the parent based on prior employment wages, current skills or current education. Regardless of whether the parent is employed or deliberately unemployed, he or she will still be responsible for the monthly amount of child support determined by the court. If the support payments are not made, the parent could face serious repercussions.
If I Remarry Will My Child Support Payments Be Lowered Automatically?
A myth which many parents believe is that by remarrying, they automatically escape their current child support obligations. Nothing could be further from the truth. The court is not concerned with future spouses, or even more children. It is concerned with the children who are already here, and who deserve to be financially supported by their parents. Of course it is almost a given that a new spouse will feel too much child support is being paid while, conversely, the receiving parent’s new spouse will almost certainly believe too little child support is being paid. None of this has any bearing on the current level of child support unless the paying parent can show a significant change in circumstances, unrelated to a new marriage.
Can Child Support Be Modified?
If the child support amount has not been reviewed in three years, it could be time to ask for a modification. There are also a number of other reasons which may justify a modification of child support. Some of these include more overnights, increases in income for the person receiving support or decreases in income for the person paying support (through no fault of their own). The increase or decrease must be a minimum of 15 percent or $500 for the court to consider a child support modification. If a parent who has been paying health care costs for the children is no longer paying those costs, a modification may be approved. A decrease in income must be related to in involuntary loss of a job or income, or due to a disability or illness. Should the needs of a child significantly increase or decrease, a child support modification could also be in order.
What is a Cost of Living Adjustment for Child Support?
Some child support agreements contain a cost of living adjustment (COLA) clause. This clause takes into account the annual cost of living increase, then automatically increases the amount of child support based on that number. The theory behind a cost of living increase clause in child support orders is that it would largely eliminate the modification requests which are based on the increase in everyday expenses. The downside to a cost of living adjustment clause is that the paying parent’s income may not be increasing at the same rate as the cost of living.
How Does Child Support Impact Taxes?
The parent receiving child support does not have to pay taxes on the money, and the payments are not tax-deductible for the parent paying child support. In order to qualify as child support, the payments must not be lumped together with alimony under the term “family support,” as alimony is taxable. In some instances the paying parent might ask the receiving parent to increase the amount of alimony and decrease the amount of child support in order to lower his or her tax obligations. The receiving parent, however, could find his or her own tax obligations increased by agreeing to this. As far as claiming a child as a dependent on federal taxes, the parent claiming the child must provide at least 50 percent of the child’s support during the tax year. Some parents alternate the tax deduction from one year to the next.
What Is Necessary for a Modification of Child Support
Whenever two parents are no longer together, chances are one parent will be ordered to pay child support to help meet the financial needs of raising the child. The parent who has less time is the most likely to pay, though the amount is calculated based on other factors, including the income of both parties. While the amount that is set is deemed sufficient at the time, there may be situations where a modification of child support becomes necessary.
Change in Income
One of the most common reasons for a child support modification is a change in income. This can come in many forms. For instance, one parent may lose a job and be without income for a substantial amount of time. Or perhaps one parent received a large raise or even a pay cut at their current job. When major income changes occur, filing for a modification may become necessary.
In some situations, the increasing expenses associated with raising a child can become grounds for a modification of child support. Cases where a parent has decided to enroll the child in expensive lessons without the other parent’s consent are not likely to be acceptable. However, if expenses increase due to a severe injury or illness or another matter beyond a parent’s control, the court may accept a modification request for this reason. Expense decreases, such as no more daycare expenses, may also be considered.
Minor changes in circumstances are unlikely to play a role in the ability to modify a child support order. Florida has instated limitations to avoid wasting time in court for minute changes. In order to qualify for a child support modification, the amount ordered must vary by at least 15 percent or $50, whichever is greater.
Raising a child is not cheap, which is why it is important for child support to be put into place to ensure both parents take on some financial responsibility. However, when circumstances change, a modification of child support may become necessary. It is important to understand when you can pursue a modification to help you make the right choice.
If you feel you meet the qualifications of a child support modification, contact us to get the process started.
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More Reading: Child support overview, Child support calculator, When does child support end, Changing child support, How is child support calculated, Getting custody and support, Child support without divorce, State of Florida child support enforcement, Garnishing benefits for support, Imputed income for support, Child support for a child that is not yours, New child support laws