Child Support: How Is It Calculated in Florida?
In Florida, a parent of 3 children can pay less child support than a parent of only 1 child. This is because the state uses a table of income levels to help determine child support amounts for a certain number of children.
Income Shares Model
Florida follows the “Income Shares Model” when determining child support. With this model, a court attempts to estimate the amount of money the parents would have spent on the children if they had remained married. The amount is then divided between the parents, based on their yearly incomes.
The court is allowed to set child support amounts 5% above or below the guideline-determined amount. If the court would like to deviate from the guidelines more than 5%, it must provide a written document that explains why the guideline amount is inappropriate.
Both parents are required to submit a financial affidavit detailing their income and expenses. There are 2 types of affidavits to choose from; the income of either parent will determine the form each party will use.
The forms available are:
- Form 902(b): available to a person whose annual income is less than $50,000; and
- Form 902(c): available to a person whose annual income is more than $50,000.
Both forms contain specific instructions detailing the income types that need to be included in the affidavit.
The affidavits start with a calculation of each party’s ‘gross income,’ which includes:
- wages or salary;
- commissions, overtime, allowances, tips, and bonuses;
- receipts from self-employment, partnerships, and independent contracts;
- disability benefits;
- workers’ compensation benefits and/or settlements;
- re-employment assistance;
- unemployment compensation;
- pension, annuity, or retirement payments;
- Social Security benefits;
- spousal support;
- rental income;
- income from royalties, trusts, or estates; and
- gains derived from property dealings.
Florida statutes allow the court to assign income to an unemployed spouse in an attempt to deter either party from escaping child support payments. The court will do the same if a party tries to remain underemployed and work below full-time hours. In other words, a court can treat unemployed or underemployed parties as if they are employed full-time and earning a full wage.
After gross income is determined, the parties can deduct expenses and costs to arrive at an individual net income. The deductions reduce the amount of income to be calculated for child support.
These deductions include:
- federal insurance contributions;
- self-employment tax;
- mandatory union dues;
- mandatory retirement payments;
- health insurance payments;
- court-ordered child support for other children; and
- spousal support.
Child Support Guidelines
Once each party’s income has been calculated, the court consults the Child Support Guidelines, which provide a grid showing the amount of the child support award based on each parent’s net income and the number of children involved.
After child support has been decided, the court will then take into consideration:
- education expenses;
- healthcare deductibles and premiums; and
- childcare expenses.
These additional expenses are usually split between the parents, with each parent responsible for their share of the expenses. This isn’t an even split; rather, the payments are divvied according to who is better equipped to handle the expense. For example, one parent could have a health insurance plan that offers better coverage, thus making them more fit to cover the cost of the child’s health insurance.
Expert Child Support Attorney
Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office is home to one of Florida’s most skilled child support attorneys. We know divorce can be challenging and will do everything we can to smooth the child support determination process for you.
Call our firm today at (727) 312-1112 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.