Support paid for the benefit the children is called child support.
Child support is a right that belongs to the children, not the parents, and you cannot waive it.
In Florida, every parent is responsible for the support of his or her child or children. A parent’s child support obligation is presumptively determined by a statutory formula known as the child support guidelines, and it is based on several factors such as the respective net income of each parent, cost of health care insurance for the children, cost of daycare and the number of overnights each parent has with the children.
The first step in calculating child support is to determine what income—more specifically, net income or income after taxes—that both parties receive. In your divorce case, it is important to determine equitable distribution (allocation of property and debt obligations) and alimony first, so you know your income for this step. Sources of income for child support are expansive and can include but are not limited to, alimony you receive, salary and wages, bonuses and commissions, business income, disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits and settlements, Social Security income, trust distributions, rental income, and investment income from the assets you receive in equitable distribution. A financial affidavit and the discovery process are essential tools in determining each party’s income for purposes of the calculation.
Issues that often arise in divorce and paternity cases relative to child support are that one parent is unemployed or intentionally takes a cut in pay or hours during litigation or that one parent is insisting on a net income number that overstates the other parent’s income for child support purposes. If you believe that the other parent is working fewer hours on purpose—or he or she has quit his or her job to avoid paying child support—your attorney may be able to prove that his or her unemployment or underemployment is intentional. Similarly, if your income varies due to irregular commission or bonuses, non-reoccurring additions such as trust distributions, gifts, asset sales, or temporary adjustments such overtime due to isolated events or opportunities, your attorney may be able to correctly state your income and ensure that you are not over paying your child support obligation to the other parent.
If you or the other parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed or falsely underreporting income, a court can “impute” income to you or the other parent for purposes of determining income for child support. Imputation of income means that the court treats yours or the other party’s income as if it is more than what either of you is actually earning.
In determining the amount of income to impute, the court will look at the current job market, the party’s most recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings levels in the local community. If the court imputes income to a parent, then that income will be included in the child support guidelines to determine the child support obligation. However, if a parent is unemployed because he or she is staying at home to take care of a child, or if the parent legitimately is unable to secure employment or is unable to work due to physical or mental limitations, then the court may decide not to impute income to that parent.
After determining the amount of income, the next step is to address the other items that factor heavily in the formula for child support calculation:
- Cost of health insurance.
- Cost of work-related childcare expenses.
- Number of overnights each parent has with the children.
For example, if you are paying $100 per month for health care for your children and $800 per month in daycare expenses because you work full-time, you would get a credit under the guidelines for both health care and daycare costs. If a parenting plan provides that the children spend a substantial amount of time with each parent, the number of overnights the parents has with each child is used to calculate a reduction in child support. This is true because the law presumes that a parent with more overnights spends more money to care for the children because they are with him or her more of the time.
Child support typically ends when the child reaches the age of majority, or 18 years old. However, there are instances when child support can extend past 18 or terminate before 18 years of age. Child support can terminate early if the child marries, dies, or becomes self-sufficient, or if the parent dies. For example, if your son graduates from high school at age 17 and enters the military, the court may reduce or terminate the other parent’s child support obligation if your son is no longer living at home and is supporting himself. The court can extend child support past 18 if the child is still in high school will graduate before he or she turns 19. In that case, child support would extend until the child graduates or turned 19 whichever occurs sooner. If a child is incapable of self-support due to a mental or physical incapacity, either parent, or both, may be required to provide support for the child beyond the age of 18. You should discuss this with your attorney as this is a difficult and somewhat confusing area of the law in Florida.
At Nicole L. Goetz, P.L. we have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the divorce process from start to finish, including calculation of child support obligations. If you have questions, would like to receive more information, or need an attorney to assist you during this difficult and often complicated process, please call our office in Naples, Florida at 239-325-5030 to schedule a confidential consultation with our attorneys.
The information provided on law and legal topics is designed for general information only and does not constitute nor should it be considered legal advice. It is not a substitute nor should it be considered a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney knowledgeable about your specific factual situation.