How Child Support Is Calculated in Florida
No one really likes to pay bills — child support included — but providing financial support to your child is a legal obligation that starts the moment you are legally recognized as a parent and continues until the child reaches the age of 18. Child support petitions can be filed as part of a divorce, paternity proceeding, or when the parents live separately but do not have a divorce petition pending. It is unlikely you will escape this obligation if you have a child.
A court can order one or both parents to pay child support to each other or to a third party who has legal custody of the child. Child support is intended to cover the basic necessities – food, clothing, and shelter, but it can also include money for educational and child care expenses, a child’s activities, or extraordinary costs related to a child’s special needs. Health insurance coverage is an additional component of child support that most parents will need to provide. When a court enters an order for child support, there is usually an accompanying income deduction order that is sent to the obligated parent’s employer so automatic withdrawal of the child support payment can begin. If the parties and the court find it is in the best interest of the child to not immediately issue an income deduction order, payments may be made directly to the parent receiving child support or to the State collection unit for dispersal. Now that a basic outline of what child support is and how it is paid has been laid out, a discussion of what goes into calculating the actual payment amount will follow below.
As noted above, health insurance coverage for each child is required by one or both parents. A parent will be excused from providing this benefit if they can show the cost is unreasonable or the available policies do not include providers accessible to the child. The cost of health insurance is presumed reasonable if the cost of adding a child does not exceed 5% of the gross income of the parent providing coverage. Furthermore, health insurance is considered accessible if it can be used in the county where the child primarily lives or in another county, if there is agreement with the other parent. If the parents equally split parenting time, health insurance is accessible if it can be used in the county where either parent lives.
Child support calculations are based on the net monthly income of both parents, which is then plugged into a chart that uses net income plus the number of children to arrive at the monthly child support payment. A court can deviate from the guidelines by 5% after considering factors related to the child’s need, age, standard of living, and financial situation of each parent. If the court wants to adjust the child support amount by more than 5%, it must produce a written explanation as to why such a variance is necessary to avoid an unjust or inappropriate result.
Monthly income is computed from a parent’s gross income, which includes the following:
● Salary or wages;
● Bonuses and commissions;
● Disability benefits;
● Unemployment benefits;
● Social security benefits; and
● Rental income