At its most basic, child support is the means by which parents must provide financially for their children. Florida courts determine the amount of child support one party must pay using various calculations and guidelines. In Florida, courts use a method of calculating child support called the Income Shares Model. In this method, the court will attempt to determine the amount of financial support the children would have received had the parents remained together. This is then used to calculate the amount that one parent must provide to the other for continued financial care of a divorce or other child custody agreement.
Determining the amount of child support owed by the parent in Florida will begin with a disclosure of finances and obligations by both parents. Each person must fill out a special affidavit that lists all of their income and expenses. These affidavits are then sent to both parties for review and are filed with the court. It's important to note that there are different forms depending on if you have a yearly income over or under $50,000.
What Counts as Income?
For the purposes of the financial affidavit, it can be difficult determining what to include as part of your income. While some items are obvious, such as salary, wages bonuses or overtime, others may not be so clear cut. For example, investment earnings do count as income. Spousal support also counts towards a party's income, regardless of whether it is from the current or a previous marriage.
Sometimes a party may lessen their total hours worked, or change or modify their job, in order to lower the amount of income that they disclose on their financial affidavit, thus lowering their overall child support obligation. In Florida, the court has the option to impute income to one party. This is a complicated process, but begins with the court finding that the parent has voluntarily become unemployed or underemployed. The court may then make the child support calculations based on what the party should have made, were they employed full time.
Florida Child Support Guidelines
Once income has been calculated and expenses documented, the court will then determine the amount of child support the custodial parent is entitled to. In this process, the court combines the income amounts of both parties and determines the amount of financial support the child or children would have received had the parties stayed together.
This number is then plugged into the Florida Child Support Guidelines, a formal table that is regularly updated that gives specific amounts for financial support depending on number of children, income and various other factors. The court has some leeway in determining the final amount in that they are allowed to increase or lower the final obligation by up to 5% if the specific situation calls for it.
Get Legal Help with Your Child Support Issues
As you can see, there are many issues that go into determining child support in Florida. While the process can seem complicated, Florida attorneys like those at the Law Offices of Justin McMurray, P.A. are available to discuss your case and guide you through the child support process.