How Does Child Support Work in Florida?

There is a basic calculation method that is used for Florida child support. Although this is not exact, a family law court will determine the final amount. But this calculation method can give you an idea of what to expect, whether you are on the receiving end of the child support or the one that must pay.

Here is what is used under Florida child support laws for combined monthly available income greater than $10,000:

  • One Child: 5%
  • Two Children: 7.5%
  • Three Children: 9.5%
  • Four Children: 11%
  • Five Children: 12%
  • Six Children: 12.5%

This is the minimum amount required by law. The factors listed above and other needs, including activities that promote quality of life such as summer camps, hobbies, and entertainment, will be considered. The judge can deviate from the guidelines but will also utilize the standard of living and the financial status and age of each parent.

With an experienced child support attorney, a parent will have legal authority on their side to ensure the child support is fair.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

Child support calculations are based on a set of guidelines that consider the combined income of both parents and the number of children. These calculations aim to ensure that child support is fair and meets the needs of the children. Here are the general steps:

  1. Calculate Each Parent’s Net Income: This includes all earnings, benefits, and other sources of income, minus allowable deductions such as taxes, healthcare costs for the children, and other mandatory expenses.
  2. Combine the Net Incomes: Add the net incomes of both parents to determine the total available income for child support.
  3. Refer to the Child Support Guidelines Chart: Use the total combined net income to find the base child support amount on the Florida Child Support Guidelines Chart. This chart gives a basic child support amount corresponding to various income levels and the number of children.
  4. Adjustments for Time-Sharing: The amount of time each parent spends with the children can affect the final child support figure. More time spent may result in adjustments to the support amount.
  5. Consider Additional Children’s Needs: Additional costs, such as health care, education, and childcare expenses, are also factored into the final child support calculation.
  6. Special Considerations: In cases where combined parental income is very high, the court may consider additional factors like the children’s standard of living and extraordinary expenses.

Example Calculations

  • For a combined monthly net income of $3,000 with one child, the base support amount might be $644.
  • For a combined monthly net income of $6,000 with two children, the base support amount could be $1,737.

Remember, these are simplified examples. The actual child support amount may vary based on the specifics of your situation. It’s always best to use the Florida Child Support Guidelines Worksheet or consult with a family law attorney for a precise calculation.

This method ensures that the child support amount reflects what the children would have received if both parents were living together, maintaining a focus on the best interests of the children.

Allowable Deductions for Calculating Income for Child Support

When parents ask, “How does child support work in Florida?” they often wonder how their final income is calculated.

There are certain allowable deductions to determine what the final amount will be. These include:

  • Federal, state, and local income tax deductions
  • Personal healthcare payments and healthcare premiums for the child(ren)
  • Daycare costs for the child(ren)
  • Union dues
  • Spousal support and child support from a previous marriage
  • Mandatory retirement payments
  • Federal insurance payments

Your attorney can advise and guide you to ensure the calculating formula is meticulous and includes all necessary information allowable by Florida child support laws.

Timesharing and Income Changes That Can Affect Child Support

It is common for the family dynamics and income of the parents to change over time. Does that mean that the amount of child support will change? Maybe. The changes must be considerable enough for the court to hear them.

If you want to modify Florida child support, the change in either parent’s income must be at least 10%., which could occur with a promotion at a job or even a career change. By the same token, if a request for a change in income is due to a significant decrease in pay, that can be addressed as well. It is recommended to get legal counsel before approaching the court.

Additionally, if timesharing has significantly changed – such as the custodial parent becoming physically unwell and needs extra help – this can also affect the amount of child support moving forward.

How Long Does the Child Support Process Take in Florida?

The average time frame is 6-8 months for a new case. It will be the most efficient and speedy if both parents fully cooperate with the process. The enforcement of an existing order generally will not take as long, running on an average of 4-6 months.

How Does Retroactive Child Support Work in Florida?

Retroactive child support in Florida addresses the financial support owed for a period before the formal establishment of a child support order. This concept is particularly relevant in cases where there has been a delay in formalizing child support arrangements after parents separate or when paternity is established later.

Florida law generally allows for retroactive child support to be awarded for up to 24 months preceding the filing of a petition for support. This retroactive period is calculated from the date when the parents stopped living together in the same home.

The amount of retroactive child support is based on the same guidelines used for standard child support calculations. It considers the parents’ income during the retroactive period, which can be challenging if the income varied significantly.

When calculating retroactive child support, the court takes into account expenses related to the child’s care during the retroactive period. This may include healthcare, education, and childcare costs incurred in the past.

Typically, the retroactive support amount is added to the ongoing monthly child support payments. Courts might also consider any direct payments or contributions made by the non-custodial parent during the retroactive period. In paternity cases, if the child was born before the enactment of the retroactive child support law in 1998, the mother may seek child support dating back to the child’s birth.

Common Misconceptions about Child Support in Florida

Child support in Florida, like in many states, is surrounded by various myths and misunderstandings. Addressing these misconceptions is crucial to ensure parents have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Here are some common misconceptions:

  1. Child Support is Only the Non-Custodial Parent’s Responsibility“: In Florida, both parents are responsible for child support. The amount each parent contributes depends on their income and the time spent with the child. The state follows an “Income Shares Model” where both parents’ incomes are considered in determining the support amount.
  2. Child Support Ends at Age 18“: While child support typically ends when a child turns 18, there are exceptions. Support may continue if the child is still in high school with a reasonable expectation of graduation before turning 19 or if the child has a mental or physical incapacity that began before turning 18.
  3. Child Support Amount is Fixed and Cannot Be Changed“: Child support can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances. This includes significant changes in a parent’s income or the child’s needs. Modifications must be court-approved.
  4. Child Support Covers Everything“: Child support is meant to cover the basic needs of the child, like food, shelter, and clothing. However, it may not cover all expenses, such as extracurricular activities or special educational needs, unless specifically included in the support order.
  5. If I Don’t Pay Child Support, I Can Lose Custody“: While failing to pay child support can have legal consequences, including fines and jail time, it does not automatically lead to a loss of custody. Custody decisions are based primarily on the child’s best interests.
  6. My Ex Can Deny Me Visitation if I Don’t Pay Child Support“: Child support and visitation rights are separate legal issues. Non-payment of child support does not grant the other parent the right to deny visitation.
  7. Only the Father Pays Child Support“: Child support is not gender-specific. The obligation to pay support is based on income and custodial factors, not gender.
  8. I Can Agree with My Ex to Waive Child Support“: Any agreement to waive child support must be approved by a court. Florida law prioritizes the child’s best interests, and parents cannot unilaterally decide to waive support.
  9. Child Support is Tax-Deductible“: Child support payments are not tax-deductible for the payer, nor are they taxable income for the recipient.
  10. Income from a New Spouse Can Affect Child Support“: Generally, the income of a new spouse is not considered in calculating child support, unless it indirectly impacts the parent’s financial situation.

Do I Need an Attorney? 

It is recommended to have an attorney to ensure a reasonable, fair amount for child support. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, legal counsel can represent you through the complex process of the determination of child support, as well as legal needs in child support enforcement.

Dean Tsourakis is an experienced family law attorney. Contact our office to schedule a free consultation.