The Florida Statute dictating child support guidelines is Florida Statute 61.30. The purpose of child support is to ensure the child's basic needs are being met fairly in accordance with both parents' salaries. To that end, both parents will have income imputed to them (even if one parent isn't employed) based on their employability or potential for income based on the parent's qualifications and recent work history. (Exceptions to this rule of imputing income occur if the court determines it is in the best interests of the child for one parent to stay home with the child or children, or if there is a physical or mental incapacity over which the parent has no control). Many times, if income information isn't available, the court will impute minimum wage.
Deciding the proper amount of income to impute to each party is often the largest point of contention in child support disputes. According to Florida Statute 61.30, gross income includes, but is 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 compensation, Pension, 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 that they reduce living expenses, and gains derived from dealings in property, unless the gain is nonrecurring.
Florida Statute 61.30 lists a child support guideline based on the combined monthly net income the court determines is appropriate and based on the number of children the parties share.
After income for both parties is decided, the court then looks to see what extra expenses one parent may be incurring. For example, if there are childcare expenses one parent is incurring due to employment, education calculated to result in employment or enhanced income, or a job search, those costs will be added to the basic obligation. After that occurs, any child care costs that were prepaid by the parent are then deducted from that parent's child support obligation.
Additionally, health insurance costs and any non-covered medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses of the child (or children) are added to the basic obligation (unless said expenses have been ordered to be separately paid on a percentage basis). After that computation, any prepaid moneys for health-related costs are then deducted from that parent's support obligation.
Each parent's percentage share is then determined by multiplying the minimum child support need by each parent's percentage share of the combined monthly net income. Then, 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 statute does allow, however, for various adjustments from the child support guideline based on many factors, including, but not limited to: the age of the child; extraordinary medical, psychological, or educational, or dental expenses; special needs or disability of the child or children; independent income of the child; total assets of the oblige, obligor, or child; another child support order that requires a person to pay another person more than 55 percent of his or her gross income for current support (from a single support order); or when a child spends a large amount of time, but less than 20 percent of overnights, with one parent, thereby reducing the financial expenditures incurred by the other parent; or the refusal of a parent to become involved in the activities of the child.
The court also has the discretion to deviate upwards or downwards 5% from the child support guideline if the court finds it is necessary based on the age of the child, standard of living, station in life, or financial status and ability of each parent, but only upon a written finding explaining why guideline child support would be unjust or inappropriate.
This article is meant only to be an overview of child support, as case law and the statute provide for even further nuances and situation-specific computations. If you are going through a child support dispute, it is best to contact a skilled attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure you pay only what you are legally obligated, or, as the custodial parent, that you receive the maximum amount to which you are entitled. Contact the attorneys at Saunders Law to assist you today.