Each parent of minor children owe a duty of support.
During a divorce, a court judge may, at any time, order either or both parents to pay support based upon the Florida Child Support Guidelines, also known as statutory guidelines.
AMOUNT BASED ON NET INCOME
The guidelines schedule is based on the parents' net income. Net income is determined by taking gross income and reducing it by allowable deductions such as taxes and health insurance payments to cover yourself.
CHILD SUPPORT CANNOT BE WAIVED
Parents cannot waive child support because it is a right belonging to their child.
A court judge has the ultimate authority to determine the amount of child support. If you try and waive child support, your court judge is going to require you to complete a child support guidelines worksheet if you failed to prepare one. If a parent is providing extra financial support for things like private school tuition or costly extracurricular activities, it may be possible to reduce the child support amount or eliminate it.
HEALTH INSURANCE REQUIRED
Every child support order must contain a health insurance provision for the minor child when health insurance is
- reasonable in cost
- accessible to the child
Health insurance will be determined to be reasonable when the additional cost of adding the child does not exceed 5% of gross income of the parent responsible for providing the health insurance.
UNCOVERED MEDICAL EXPENSES
A court judge may order payment of a child's non-covered medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses be made directly to the other parent on a percentage basis. For example, the parent paying child support to the other parent might be ordered to pay 50% of the non-covered medical, dental, and prescription expenses. The actual percentage must be calculated based upon each parent's net monthly income compared to the combined monthly net income of both parents. Here's a quick example:
If the mother's monthly net income is $5000 and the father's monthly net income is $3000, their combined total net income is $8000 per month. To calculate the percentage share of non-covered expenses, you take each parent's net income and divide it by the total combined net income as follows: Mom's income of $5000 is divided by the total of $8000 which equals 62.5%. Dad's income of $3000 is divided by the total of $8000 which equals 37.5%. So, if Mom is paying Dad monthly child support, a court judge will order her to also pay 62.5% of the child's non-covered expenses directly to Dad.
Payment for uncovered medical, dental, and psychological expenses is limited to those expenses that are reasonable and necessary.
A parent's responsibility for medical care also includes expenses incurred for reasonable psychological care.
ESTIMATED CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS
Is there any easy way to estimate how much child support should be paid per month? Yes. The following is my helpful tip to you:
- 1 child = 22% of the net income of the parent who will be paying child support
- 2 children = 32% of the net income of the parent who will be paying child support
- 3 children = 41% of the net income of the parent who will be paying child support
DEVIATION FROM GUIDELINES
A court judge is permitted to deviate from the child support guidelines, plus or minus 5% if necessary.
INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT
What is considered income for child support purposes?
Income means any form of payment to a person, regardless of the source, including and not limited to the following:
- business income (gross revenue less expenses)
- 1099 income
- worker's compensation payments
- unemployment compensation
- disability benefits, annuity and retirement benefits
- social security benefits
- spousal support received from a previous marriage
- rental income (gross revenue less expenses)
- reimbursed expenses that reduce living expenses (clothing allowance, per diem, company car, gifts from parents)
- any other payment made by any person, private entity, federal or state government or any unit of local government
CREDITS AGAINST INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT
Allowable deductions from gross income include the following:
- Federal, state, and local income tax deductions
- Self-employment tax or Federal insurance contributions
- Mandatory union dues
- Mandatory retirement payments
- health insurance payments excluding payments to cover your children
- court-ordered support for other children actually paid
- spousal support paid pursuant to a court order from a previous marriage
NO JOB AND NO INCOME
If a parent does not have a job and earns no income, a court judge will impute or assign an amount of income to the unemployed parent. The amount of imputed income will depend upon the circumstances of your situation. For example, if income information is unavailable for a parent, a parent fails to participate in a child support proceeding, or a parent fails to supply adequate financial information in a child support proceeding, a court must be based upon the median income of year-round full-time workers as documented in the population reports published by the U.S. Bureau of Census.
If a parent has provided income information or has participated, then the most a court judge will impute to an unemployed parents will be minimum wage.
PARENT HIDING INCOME
Determining the actual income of a parent is usually done by examining the lifestyle, standard of living, and living expenses in relation to reported income. If a parent's lifestyle, standard of living, and living expenses simply cannot be support by their reported income, a reasonable inference can be made that the parent has an income higher than he or she is reporting.
VOLUNTARY UNEMPLOYMENT OR UNDEREMPLOYMENT
If a parent has chosen to be unemployed or underemployed, the employment potential and probable earnings of that parent must be determined. Here are some ways to determine potential and probable earnings:
- a parent's recent previous income and proven work qualifications
- expert testimony regarding prevailing earning level in the local community
- a parent's education level
- evidence of availability of jobs and associated salaries in local community
- recent work history
If the other parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, you must be able to prove by competent substantial evidence:
- the unemployment or underemployment is voluntary
- the amount of income to impute through available employment that the parent is qualified for by education, experience, and skill
You may not use either income records that are more than five years old or an income level that a parent has never earned. However, you may use an income level never earned if the parent is recently degreed, licensed, certified, re-licensed or re-certified and therefore qualified for a particular job.
A court judge may refuse to impute income to a parent who stays home with the children.
It would not make sense to impute income to a stay-at-home parent if the cost of daycare would exceed the earning ability of that parent. For example, if daycare costs would be $1,500 per month, it does not make sense to impute minimum wage income to the stay-at-home parent because they would not be able to earn more than the daycare costs.
PARENT IN JAIL
Income will be imputed to a parent about to be incarcerated so that child support arrearages can accumulate until the parent is able to earn an income. Once the parent is released, a payment plan should be established to reduce the child support arrearages.
ADJUSTMENTS TO GUIDELINES CHILD SUPPORT
If a child has extraordinary medical, psychological, or dental expenses, a court judge may adjust the minimum child support amount or the parents' shares of the minimum child support amount.
Private school - If the parents have the ability to pay the expenses and the expenses are commensurate with the family's standard of living and private school is in the child's best interest, a court judge may order private school for a child. In ordering private school, the child support may be adjusted downward from the guidelines amount if a parent is paying the child's private school expenses.
Care for a Dependent Parent - If a parent is financially supporting a dependent parent, the court may adjust the minimum child support award or the parents' share of the minimum child support award based upon the payment of support for a parent which has regularly been paid for and there is a demonstrated need.
Special Needs - A court judge may adjust child support based upon costs that may be associated with the disability of a child that have been traditionally paid by the family.
IRS Dependency Exemption, Child Care Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit - Child support may be adjusted based upon the impact of the income tax exemption for dependents. If a parent provides more than half of a child's support, he or she is entitled to claim the child as a dependent for income tax purposes.
Excessive Child Support - if the guidelines child support amount results in a parent providing more than 55% of his or her gross income, a court may adjust the minimum child support amount.
Retroactive Child Support - a court judge has the ability to award child support retroactive to the date when the parents stopped living together. The look-back period for retroactive child support is limited to 24 months prior to the filing of a petition for divorce. Current income of the person who will pay child support will be used, unless that parents can show proof of actual income during the retroactive period. An installment payment plan will usually be implemented not to exceed 20% of the guidelines minimum child support amount to pay down the retroactive child support.
INCOME WITHHOLDING ORDER
An Income Withholding Order, also known as "IWO" must be prepared when child support is ordered. In addition, a Florida Income Deduction Order, also known as "IDO," with Florida Addendum must also be prepared.
Child support must be paid through the Florida State Disbursement Unit.
COLLEGE TUITION AND EXPENSES
A parent is not required to pay for a college education. However, the parents can agree that one or both parents will contribute to a child's college education. Any agreement to pay for a child's college education will not serve as justification to reduce child support payments.
Child support is nontaxable and nondeductible.
CONTACT A SKILLED, AGGRESSIVE, COMPASSIONATE AND EXPERIENCED ORLANDO CHILD SUPPORT LAWYER TODAY
Child support can be complicated. It is important to have a guide who can help you identify your rights and responsibilities that you might overlook trying to do it yourself. Having an attorney who focuses their practice 100% on family law and divorce is essential because you need a professional who understands everything about divorce. The anger, the fear, the betrayal, and the anxiety about your financial future.
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