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What You Should Know About Florida Child Support Laws

Published at June 3, 2019 by administrator.

Florida Child Support Laws

There’s probably no other area of law with as many misconceptions as child support. And since every state handles child support a little differently, it can be a confusing process.

We’re here to clear it up.

In today’s blog, we’ll answer the most common questions we hear from our clients about Florida child support laws. With accurate information, you can move forward more confidently and make sure your children have everything they need – now and in the future.

What does child support cover?

Child support must cover a child’s basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. Depending on the parents’ income, child support payments can also support things like education, sports, enrichment activities, and vacation.

The courts do not monitor exactly how a parent spends child support unless there are concerns about child safety or illegal activities. Most parents add child support funds to their pool of household spending, so it’s hard to break out exactly how much is allotted to each child.

Since unexpected expenses will happen (like non-covered medical, dental, vision and prescription medication expenses), there’s no way to incorporate these into the child support calculation. However, there should be language about how they’ll be handled. Parents might split the cost 50/50 or base the percentage on their incomes.

How is child support calculated in Florida?

Child support in Florida is guided by the Income Shares Model. This is a concept which says that each child should receive the same proportion of parental income he/she would have received if the parents lived together. Here’s how the calculation works:

Determine Income and Expenses

First, both parents will need to complete financial affidavits that detail their income and expenses from all possible sources so the court can establish their net income. Certain expenses are considered deductions, such as health insurance premiums or tax decisions (i.e. claiming children on your taxes). These will reduce your net income, which is what the court uses to determine the basic child support amount.

Calculate Basic Support Obligation

After arriving at your combined net income, you can consult the chart of standard support amounts. This will tell you the basic support amount that corresponds to your income and number of children. To share this amount fairly, it’s divided in proportion to each parent’s income.

Adjust for Physical Custody

Next, you’ll need to consider child custody. If one parent has less than 73 overnight visits per year, they’re responsible for paying the basic support amount to the majority parent as calculated above. The courts presume that the majority parent’s share of basic support is already going toward the direct costs of raising children.

If both parents have equal custody, the court recognizes that the total costs of raising children are higher since you’re maintaining two households. You’ll multiply the basic child support obligation by 150%. The amount each parent is responsible for is then allocated not only according to income but also based on the percentage of overnights per year the child spends with each parent.

While there’s no way to confirm child support amounts other than through the court, this helpful child support calculator can give you an idea of what to expect.

Florida child support laws require both spouses to complete a financial affidavit as part of the application process. The child support order is based on your combined net income.

How does the state of Florida handle uncooperative parents?

If a parent will not share the required financial information or attend a child support hearing, the court will automatically assign income to the parent based on the best available information. If there’s no proof of the actual income, the court will use the equivalent of a year-round full-time worker’s median income according to the United States Census Bureau.

When a parent is not making child support payments, the Child Support Enforcement Program of the Florida Department of Revenue is responsible for helping parents enforce child support orders.

An important note – Florida law addresses visitation and Florida child support payments separately. If there are no legal issues or abuse, non-majority parents have the right to see their children even if they’re not up to date on their child support payments.

Does the state of Florida allow for changes to child support?

Yes. The court typically allows modification in three circumstances:

  • Change in Income — a significant increase or decrease in either parent’s income
  • Change in Parenting Time — a significant increase in time with the non-majority parent
  • Change in Expenses — a change in health insurance costs, childcare costs, or alimony, etc.

The standard guideline amounts would still apply, but they’d adjust the net income of the parents or the percentage of the non-majority parent’s time to arrive at the new child support order.

How will child support affect my taxes?

Unlike alimony, child support is not taxable for either party. In other words, the parent receiving child support does not have to pay taxes on the money, and the payments are not tax-deductible for the parent paying child support.

The factor that’s most important is which parent is claiming the child(ren) on their taxes. All child-related deductions will increase the net income for the majority parent, but subsequently, make child support payments lower.

It’s best to run a few scenarios with an accountant or experienced family law attorney and see which is most advantageous for both parties. Some parents choose to alternate the tax deduction each year, but your circumstances might not make that possible.

Meeting with a family law attorney can help you sort out the financial implications of the child support order, so it doesn’t have any unintended tax consequences.

Where can I go with questions about Florida child support laws?

The Florida Department of Revenue manages the Child Support Program. On their website, you can:

  • Apply for child support
  • Pay child support
  • Establish paternity
  • Obtain a child support order
  • Modify a child support order
  • Learn about parenting time plans
  • Enforce a child support order

In addition, the Florida Courts maintain self-help centers in every county for individuals trying to resolve family law matters. However, staff working in a self-help program may provide information and approved forms to you, but are not permitted to give legal advice or do legal research.

If you have more questions about Florida child support laws, we can walk you through the process and put your family in the best financial position going forward. Contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

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