How is Child Support determined? How much will I have to pay? How much will I receive?
In the State of Florida, there is a formula used to determine Child Support, which establishes the amount of the Child Support obligation owed by one parent to the other. Both parents are responsible for the financial well-being and care of their minor child and the guidelines set a base line of how much each party is responsible for. There are multiple factors used in the formula set by the State of Florida in determining the monthly support obligation:
- The amount of overnights the child spends with each parent.
- The number of children.
- Gross Income of both parties. (See below for how to determine income)
- Net Income which is obtained by subtracting allowable deductions from your Gross Income; which include the following:
- Federal, State, Local income tax deductions, adjusted for the filing status and allowable dependents and income tax liabilities.
- Federal insurance contributions or self-employment tax.
- Mandatory union dues.
- Mandatory retirement payments.
- Health insurance contributions or self-employment tax.
- Court ordered support for other children which is actually paid.
- Spousal support paid pursuant to a court order from a previous marriage or the marriage before the Court.
- The Net Income for both parents are combined together for a combined Net Income; which then determines the minimum amount of Child Support needed for said number of children.
- Child Care costs incurred by either parent due to employment, job search, or education calculated to result in employment or to enhance income of current employment of either parent shall be added to the basic obligation. After the child care costs are included, any monies prepaid by a parent for Child Care costs shall be deducted from that parent’s Child Support obligation.
- Health Insurance costs and any any non-covered medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses of the child, shall be added to the basic obligation unless these expenses have been ordered to be separately paid on a percentage basis. After the health insurance costs are added to the basic obligation, any money prepaid by a parent shall be deducted from the parent’s Child Support obligation.
- Each parent’s percentage share of Child Support need shall be determined by dividing each parent’s net monthly income by the combined net monthly income.
- Each parent’s actual dollar share of the total minimum Child Support need shall be determined by multiplying the minimum Child Support need by each parent’s percentage share of the combined monthly Net Income.
The two biggest factors listed above is the Net Income of each party and the Overnights each parent enjoys. The more overnights that you have with your child, either the less Child Support you pay or the more Child Support you receive. Which makes the opposite true as well, the lower the number of overnights you enjoy the more your Child Support obligation will be. Which is why the Custody/Visitation portion of any Parenting Plan is so important. If you are in need of assistance from the other parent to support the financial needs of your child, please call or contact my office to schedule a consultation so we can immediately start towards your financial relief.
CAN THE COURT DEVIATE FROM THE CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINE?
The Court can adjust the amount of Child Support to vary by plus or minus five percent (5%), from the guideline amount. The Court will consider all relevant factors including, but not limited to: needs of the child(ren), age, station in life, standard of living, and financial status and ability of each parent.
The Court may order an amount of Child Support that varies more than the five percent (5%) from the guideline amount ONLY upon a written finding detailing why ordering the guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate. The Court may adjust the total child support award of either or both parents based upon these certain factors:
- Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses.
- Independent income of the child, not to include money received by a child from supplemental security income.
- The payment of support for a parent which has been regularly paid and for which there is a demonstrated need.
- Seasonal variations in one or both parents’ income or expenses.
- The age of the child, taking into account the greater needs of older children.
- Special needs, such as costs that may be associated with the disability of a child, that have traditionally been met within the family budget even though fulfilling those needs will cause the support to exceed the presumptive amount established by guidelines.
- Total available assets of the oblige, obligor, and the child.
- The impact of the Internal Revenue Service Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and dependency exemption and waiver of that exemption. The court may order a parent to execute a waiver of the Internal Revenue Service dependency exemption if the paying parent is current in support payments.
- Child Support guidelines require a person to pay another person more than fifty-five percent (55%) of their gross income for a Child Support obligation for current support resulting from a single support order.
- In a Parenting Plan, where the Time Sharing exercised is a significant amount of time with a party, but less than twenty percent (20%) of the overnights, thereby reducing the financial costs incurred by the other parent.
- Any other adjustment needed to achieve an equitable result, to include, but not limited to, a reasonable and necessary existing expense or debt.
HOW TO DETERMINE INCOME
In most cases it is simple to determine income of a party, all you need to do is review standard paystubs or tax returns. But what happens when one party is unemployed, under-employed, in school, or work in a sales position based on commission and bonuses? That is when you need an experienced and qualified attorney who can apply case law and statutes to Impute Income upon a party. When determining Gross Income of a party, I will demand records which provide an accounting for all streams of their income including, but not limited to:
- Salary or wages.
- Bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments.
- Business income from sources such as self-employment, partnership, close corporations, and independent contracts. “Business income” means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income.
- Disability benefits.
- All workers’ compensation benefits and settlements.
- Reemployment assistance or unemployment assistance.
- Pensions, retirement, or annuity payments.
- Social security benefits.
- Spousal support received from a previous marriage or court ordered in the marriage before the court.
- Interest and dividends.
- Rental income, which is gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce the income.
- Income from royalties, trusts, or estates.
- Reimbursed expenses or in-kind payments to the extent they reduce living expenses.
- Gains derived from dealings in property, unless the gain is nonrecurring.
If you believe the other party has been or will begin hiding their income, please call or contact my office to schedule a consultation so we can begin unravelling their hidden income.
If a party is under-employed or unemployed, and it is found to be voluntary, absent physical or mental incapacity; then the Court shall Impute Income to that party. The court will determine what the Imputed Income should be by determining:
- The employment potential and probable earnings level based upon their recent work history
- Occupational qualifications
- Prevailing earnings level in the community, if such information is available.
When Imputing Income you may NOT base it upon the following:
- Income records which are more than five (5) years old at the time of hearing or trial, when the imputation is sought.
- Income at a level that a party has never earned in the past; unless recently degreed, licenses, certified, relicensed, or recertified and thus qualified for, subject to geographical location, with due consideration of the parties Time Sharing provided in the Parenting Plan or relevant order.
- Public assistance.
In certain cases, a party has placed their career on hold to raise the children and with a pending divorce, they are forced to re-enter the work force. Due to the fact that the party has not worked in many years, you cannot depend on previous work history to provide for a prevailing income they can achieve. A typical scenario would be a married couple deciding that the Wife will place her career as an architect on hold, so she can stay home and raise the children. Fast forward ten (10) years and the marriage has eroded and there is a pending Divorce. The last three years of the Wife’s employment she earned on average of $100,000 per year. Can you then Impute her Income at $100,000 per year? NO. We would need more information to provide for an accurate income. The next step would be hiring an expert to perform a Vocational Evaluation. The expert would evaluate the Wife’s credentials, work history, qualifications, prevailing wages in that field in the vicinity of Wife’s residence and provide a report with a detailed accounting of what her Income should be Imputed at. I have hired and worked with experts to provide Vocational Evaluations on multiple occasions.
If you believe the other parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, please call or contact my office to schedule a consultation to begin the process to maximize your ability to Impute Income.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO PAY?
In most circumstances an obligation of Child Support ends once the child turns eighteen (18) years old. There are circumstances when that Child Support Obligation can extend after the child turn eighteen (18) based upon the following circumstances:
- If a child is still in high school while eighteen (18) years old and on track to graduate prior to turning nineteen (19) years old; then Child Support ends upon the graduation date of high school.
- If you have a child with special needs, and will not become a self-supporting adult, then Child Support can continue for the life of the child.
If you believe your special needs child will need support for their life; then it is paramount that it is thoroughly accounted for in the Final Judgment or Order from the Court.
HOW DOES CHILD SUPPORT GET PAID?
There are typically three (3) ways that Child Support is paid.
- Paid directly to the other parent.
- Through the State Depository Unit.
- By an Income Withholding/income Deduction Order.
If the Child Support payment are made directly between the parties, then it is highly recommended that the support is paid by check or a bank transfer. Each party needs to protect themselves from false allegations as to over payment or non-payment of Child Support. The proverbial money trail is needed for any accounting discrepancies. If the Child Support payment is made through the State Depository Unit, then the payor is obligated to provide the payment online or travel to the local Courthouse to make the required payments. A negative aspect for the payor is whether you are ordered to pay weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly or monthly; there is a service fee required per payment. A negative for the party receiving the Child Support is that there is a processing time and the support can come later than expected. If the Child Support is paid through an Income Withholding Order/Income Deduction Order; then the employer automatically deducts a set amount ordered by the Court per pay period. The Income Withholding Order/Income Deduction Order must provide certain information:
- For child support to terminate upon a child’s eighteenth (18th) birthday unless the court made other findings or agreement by the parties.
- A schedule stating the amount of the monthly Child Support obligation for all the minor children at the time of the order.
- The amount of Child Support that will be owed for any remaining children after one or more of the children are no longer entitled to receive child support.
- The Month, Day, and year that the reduction or termination of Child Support becomes effective.
An Income Withholding Order also has the same negative effects on the payor and receiver as when utilizing the State Disbursement Unit; there is a service fee on each payment and there is processing time to receive the Support. An Income Withholding Order/Income Deduction Order can be necessary if the payor is refusing to pay their Child Support obligation in a timely manner or not paying the required amount. Some payor’s also prefer an income Withholding Order/Income Deduction Order so they do not have to think about paying the Child Support obligation as it is done for them automatically. If you have a pending child support obligation and would like to pay through an Income Withholding Order/income Deduction Order OR the other party is not providing direct support payments timely or the sufficient amount, please call or contact my office to schedule a consultation.
AM I PAYING TOO MUCH CHILD SUPPORT OR AM I NOT RECEIVING ENOUGH CHILD SUPPORT: WHAT CAN I DO?
Issues dealing with Children are ALWAYS Modifiable. The Court does not close its doors on issues dealing with Children, including Child Support. There needs to be a showing of a Substantial Change in Circumstance upon which a Modification may be granted. Once new Child Support guidelines are prepared, the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines shall be at least fifteen percent (15%) or fifty dollars ($50), whichever amount is greater, before the Court can find the guidelines provide a Substantial Change in Circumstances. If you are suddenly laid off, believe the other parent makes substantially more money since the last order, a financial change has occurred, the other party is not mainiting their ordered time sharing, or any other issue that may result in a Child Support Modification please call or contact my office to schedule a consultation.
WHEN DO I HAVE TO START PAYING CHILD SUPPORT?
In any initial determination of Child Support, whether the case is dealing with establishing Paternity, Dissolution of Marriage, or Support during the marriage, the Court has the discretion to award Child Support retroactive to the date when the parents ceased to reside together in the same household as the child, not to exceed twenty-four (24) months preceding the filing of said Petition. In determining the Retroactive Support, the Court shall consider the following:
- The Court shall apply the guidelines schedule in effect at the time of the hearing subject to the obligor’s demonstration of their actual income, during the Retroactive period. Failure of the olbigor to so demonstrate shall result in the court using the obligor’s income at the time of the hearing in computing Child support for the Retroactive period.
- All actual payments made by a parent to the other parent or the child or third parties for the benefit of the child throughout the proposed Retroactive period.
- The court should consider an installment plan for the payment of retroactive child support.
If you believe you are the obligor of Child Support and no longer reside with the Child, please call or contact my office to schedule a consultation to discuss how to lessen any financial impact of a Retroactive obligation. If you are in need of Child Support and the potential obligor no longer is providing for the Child, please call or contact my office to schedule a consultation to begin recovering Retroactive Support.
With offices in Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach, the Frankel Law Firm provides clients throughout Volusia and Flagler Counties with exceptional legal services in all aspects of family law. The firm's areas of expertise include jurisdictional divorce issues; marital property characterization, valuation, and division; spousal and child support; child custody cases; paternity matters; adoptions, and prenuptial, postnuptial, and marital settlement agreements.
120 E Granada Blvd., Suite 203
Ormond Beach, FL 32176
(386) 317 4641
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