What Florida Parents Need to Know About Child Support

When child support is mentioned, most people automatically assume it is in the context of a divorce. While this is oftentimes true, child support-related legal disputes can occur in numerous different scenarios outside of a divorce case as well. In most circumstances, Florida requires both lawfully recognized parents to support their children financially, whether they are married or not. When it comes to a dispute and the courts are left to determine how much each parent should contribute, Florida judges observe the “Income Shares Model,” which requires the judge to:

  • Calculate how much money the parents would have spent each month to maintain the children if the household hadn’t broken up
  • Split the result between both parents according to their respective incomes

Evaluating each parent’s financial details and assigning appropriate support amounts is a multi-step process that starts with the completion of financial affidavits.

Financial Affidavits

This document, which itemizes the income and expenses for each party, must be filled out by both parents. To prevent one parent from attempting to evade their child support responsibilities, Florida law allows the court to “impute” income to an unemployed individual, or treat them as if they were earning a full-time wage. This measure is intended to thwart parents who deliberately stay unemployed or try to reduce their required payments by working reduced hours.

After gross income is determined, each parent can deduct costs and expenses such as taxes, health insurance payments, and any court-ordered spousal support or child support from a previous relationship. What is left over is the net income.

Child Support Guidelines Worksheet

Florida Statute 61.30 contains the state Child Support Guidelines, which indicate how much support should be ordered given the net income of each parent and the number of children. These amounts are presumptive, meaning that unless circumstances advise otherwise, the amount stated in the guidelines must be ordered. The court then assigns an income-based percentage to each spouse.

Sharing of Expenses

Providing for a child entails numerous expenses beyond simply clothing, feeding, and maintaining a roof over the child’s head. These expenses include things like healthcare, childcare, and education as well. These extra support obligations are also divided between the parents using the same percentage used in the child support guidelines worksheet.

Once child support has been ordered, it usually continues until the child turns 18. If he or she is still in high school, the cutoff date may be extended by one more year.

Modifications

Once issued, child support orders can only be modified if a parent can prove that their circumstances have changed to an extent that the order is no longer realistic. Examples include:

  • Involuntary decrease in income
  • Increase in income
  • Disability or prolonged illness of either parent
  • Changes in the needs of the child (e.g. he or she is school age and day care costs are no longer necessary)

The issues surrounding divorce and child support in Florida can be extremely challenging. Let Rotella & Hernandez help. Call us today at (786) 571-8472 for our Miami office or (561) 571-0872 for our West Palm Beach office to schedule a consultation.

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