Determining Child Support in a Florida Divorce
Florida is one of the 39 states that adopts the ‘income shares’ model of child support. This model of support is premised on the idea that minor children should receive the same proportion of parental income that they would receive if their parents remained married. While Florida law (Fla. Stat. Ann. §61.30) directs courts to use the Florida Child Support Guidelines, it is important for each parent going through a divorce in Florida to understand what factors are taken into account and how the obligation will be set.
What Factors Are Taken Into Account When Calculating Child Support?
The Florida Child Support Guidelines take several factors into consideration to determine child support:
- Net income for both parents;
- Health care and child care expenses for the minor child(ren);
- The standard needs for the minor child(ren) in Florida; and
- Amount of overnights each parent enjoys with the minor child(ren).
It is important to note that the formula considers each parent’s net income after allowable deductions, including, but not limited, to health insurance premiums, mandatory retirement payments, and union dues. One key consideration among the above factors is the amount of overnights each parent has. A different formula is triggered if the non-custodial parent has 73 overnights or more (73 overnights or more per year with the minor child(ren).
Will a Court Impute Income If a Parent is Underemployed or Unemployed?
Possibly. A Florida court will not look favorably upon a parent who purposely tries to avoid their child support obligation by quitting a high-paying job or not taking advantage of job opportunities. Accordingly, if a court finds that either parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, it may “impute” income to the parent based on that parent’s work history and/or earning potential. Either party may consider hiring a vocational expert to testify as to occupational qualifications and prevailing earning levels in the community.
If there is insufficient evidence to determine a parent’s earning potential, a court may apply a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s income is equal to a median income of a full-time worker according to United States Census Bureau reports.
Can the Court Deviate From Guidelines?
Possibly. A Florida court may deviate from guidelines if they make a written finding for the record that applying guidelines in a particular case would be inappropriate. The finding must include the amount of support that would have been calculated using the guidelines and the reason why the court deviated from the guidelines. Common examples of why a court may deviate from guidelines may include a parent having a significant parenting time, payment of extraordinary medical expenses to preserve the life of a parent or child, or a parent’s payment of additional expenses for a child’s developmental or other medical needs. A court would also consider whether a child has an independent source of income, including disability benefits or if one parent had significant assets not included in their income.
Contact an Experienced Winter Park Family Law Attorney Today
Navigating the Florida child support guidelines and determining whether you may be able to argue for a deviation can be an overwhelming process. To ensure your rights are protected, you should contact the experienced Winter Park family law attorneys at Cotter & Zelman, P.A. to help guide you from the calculation through entry of a final support order. Reach out to us today for a free case review.