How Child Support is Determined

Determining child support is not always as simple as it seems and this is especially so in the state of Florida. It is important to understand how child support works to ensure that you have the financial support to be able to properly care for your children. The main objective behind child support is to be able to provide for a child’s basic needs including adequate food, shelter, and clothing. It is also a way for the child to be able to share in his or her parents’ good fortune. In Florida in particular, parents are obligated by law to support a minor child or children. As such, to receive support is regarded as the child’s right and not the parents’.

Guidelines for Child Support

Parents are obliged to provide for their children and in Florida, an Income Shares Model is followed in order to determine child support. This implies that the courts will do their best to provide an estimate of the amount of money that parents will have spent in taking care of the child or children should they have not separated or decided to divorce. Whatever the resulting amount is, it will be divided between the parents depending on each of their incomes.

The courts are guided by the Florida Child Support Guidelines, specifically Statute 61.30, to help them arrive at a child support order. Under the statute, the amount of support is presumptive because in most cases, it is the court which has to order the amount that was provided in the guidelines. It is to some degree flexible because the child support amount that the court sets can be 5% above or below the amount stated in the guidelines should they feel that the situation necessitates are the same. In cases where the court needs to depart from the guidelines for more than 5%, a written finding is required to explain or justify why the amount specified in the guidelines is not appropriate.

Florida Child Support Formula

The table of income levels is used in Florida to determine the child support amount corresponding to the number of children. In general, a formula is used to establish child support and it considers both parents’ net income and certain expenses. The specified expenses can include paid health insurance premiums for parents and children, taxes, and employment-related day care costs when applicable.

Aside from these, the formula also takes into account the time a child spends with each parent in terms of number of overnights. If a parent spends less time with the child with at least 73 overnights in a year, then the time-sharing amount will be considered in the child support calculation and will affect an adjustment to the child support obligation. This child support reduction is based on the condition that both parents have to provide for the basic needs of the child while under the care of that particular parent.

While initial support is being established, retroactive child support may be laid down for that period of time between the date of the parents’ separation and the date the child support order takes effect. When the parents’ separation is more than 2 years or 24 months before the action requesting for child support was filed, retroactive support might be determined for that period beginning from the 2 years before the filing date using the date of effectivity of the child support obligation.

Child Support Modifications

Apparently, only change is constant in life and even in child support, this also holds true. Changes can happen that will allow child support to be modified. However, the changes in circumstances have to be unanticipated, substantial, and permanent. A change is considered permanent if it has lasted for a year or more, or is expected to last for the same period. Meanwhile, substantial changes are those which are related to a job loss, a parent’s disability, cost increases in daycare or health insurance, or a 15% or higher increase or decrease in the income of either parent.

The modification will only be effective upon the filing date of the corresponding action for modification. As such, the modification action must be filed right after a job loss to avoid and outstanding payments from accruing and being owed because of the non-payment of child support. The only exception to the rule is related to time-sharing whereby child support was determined based on both parents’ ability to exercise substantial time-sharing and then one parent was unable to continue. Under this circumstance, then child support may be retroactively modified to that date when time-sharing was stopped by that parent.

Understanding your options when it comes to making or receiving child support payments is an important task that Seff & Capizzi Law Group takes seriously. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives.

If you need assistance with making or receiving child support payments, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.