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Child Support Law

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How to Calculate Child Support in Florida

Florida parents going through a divorce can choose a number of possible arrangements for child custody. Regardless of the custody agreement, both parents are generally still responsible for the costs of raising the child. Typically, the non-custodial parent will pay child support to the custodial parent, but this may vary depending upon your specific child custody agreement.

How Long Do Child Support Payments Last?

Child support payments typically last until a child has reached the age of 18. But if a child is suffering from a mental or physical disability that manifested before age 18, a parent may have to continue paying support. If a child is 18 and still in high school, and they are expected to graduate before their 19th birthday, they may continue receiving support from a parent.

Calculating Child Support

The amounts that parents pay in child support can vary greatly. In Florida, the payment amount is based on the net monthly income of both parents combined. Net income refers to the remainder after subtracting deductions from gross income. These deductions include expenses such as taxes and retirement plan payments.

Gross income not only refers to income from employment wages, but other income as well, including:

  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Allowances
  • Tips
  • Disability benefits
  • Workers' compensation benefits
  • Social Security benefits
  • Spousal support
  • Retirement payments
  • Rental income
  • Royalties
  • Income from trusts
  • Property earnings

Once the combined net income for both parents is calculated, it is compared to a chart in the Florida child support statutes. This chart displays the monthly amounts needed to support up to six children at each income level. For example, if a couple's combined monthly net income is $3,600, the minimum support need for one child is $757. If the couple has two children, the minimum support rises to $1,179, and for three children, the support increases to $1,475.

If the paying parent's income is less than the amount suggested by the chart, the payment amount is then calculated on a case-by-case basis. Courts try to ensure that an increase in pay would also result in an increase in child support payments. If the combined net income of both parents is more than $10,000 per month, then the amount of income over $10,000 is multiplied by a percentage determined by the couple's number of children. For one child, the percentage is 5 percent, and for two children, it is 7.5 percent. This amount is added to the child support amount suggested by the chart.

Once the child support need is determined, each parent's individual net monthly income is divided by the combined net monthly income. The resulting percentage is multiplied by the monthly child support need to determine the dollar amount that a parent is responsible for.

After the payment amount is determined, the court can adjust the payment amount based on a number of different factors. These include:

  • The child's independent income
  • Seasonal changes in parental income
  • Special needs involving a child's disability
  • Medical and psychological needs
  • The child's age

Adjustments may also be made depending upon the parenting plan in place. For example, child support may be lowered if one parent spends a significant amount of time (up to 20 percent of overnights) with a child and it reduces the other parent's child care costs. If a parent fails to comply with court-ordered visitation or time-share schedules, child support payment amounts may be adjusted.

If both parents spend more than 20 percent of overnights with their child, their payment amount is multiplied by 1.5. This amount is then multiplied by the percentage of overnight stays the child has with the other parent. The difference between the two figures is the amount that must be transferred between parents to pay for the child's care.

Court-Ordered Expenses

In addition to the child support calculations above, courts can also order that one or both parents pay for specific expenses. These expenses can include, among others:

  • Health care insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Day care costs
  • Education costs

Sometimes, these costs are totaled and split up between both parents. However, in some cases, the court may order that each parent is responsible for the entirety of certain costs and not others. For example, one parent may pay for education and day care expenses while the other parent handles medical insurance premiums.

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