Child support, either as a result of divorce or a dispute between unmarried parents, is a potentially complicated situation from the emotional, financial and family point of view. When the relationship between the parents is already strained, it can become an even more difficult and stressful process. Nevertheless, the parents and parties involved (including your Florida divorce or family attorney), must not lose sight that the goal of child support is not to resolve conflicts between the parents but to ensure the welfare of the children.
It is important for parents to be well advised and counseled by a family or divorce attorney in Florida about their rights and obligations regarding child support, to know what the possible outcomes may be, and to make sure that their interests are protected in the best possible way.
In the State of Florida, it is the obligation of both parents to provide financial support and health care for their children, whether they are married or not. There are specific guidelines for determining the minimum amount of child support and how much of it is paid by each parent. The calculation takes into account a variety of factors such as the child’s needs and age, the living standards, and the finances of the parents.
The first factor to consider is the income of each parent. This includes all types of income such as wages, bonuses and commissions, rental income, disability benefits, retirement and social security, interests and dividends. Some deductions may be made from that income, like tax payments, some health insurance payments, mandatory union and retirement payments, and other support payments for the children or spouses. As such, the net income of each parent is obtained, added, and a fixed scale is applied to this figure.
Once the final number is obtained, the percentage each parent must provide is determined. While the main factor is the income of each parent, other factors are also considered, including the number of nights the child stays with each parent.
The parent that has the child the majority of the nights in a calendar year is generally entitled to more support from the other parent. Likewise, even if the child does not spend the majority of the nights in a calendar year with a particular parent, if such parent has the child for over 20% of the nights, then said parent obtains a credit reducing that parent’s child support obligation.
There may be additional costs such as medical expenses, health insurance, or care expenses necessary for the parent to work. These are divided in proportion to the parents’ income and the percentage assigned to each parent based on the specific factors.
Because support is mainly calculated by income, there are some parents who try to evade responsibility by intentionally reducing their income, either quitting their job or changing it for another with a much lower salary. The Florida legal system, however, is aware of this and, when it can be proved that the reduction in income is intentional, the Judge may impute an income based on the recent work history and qualifications of the parent. When no information is available on the income of a parent, income may be presumed and assigned to that parent as minimum income.
Once child support has been ordered, it generally continues until the child turns 18 (or it may be extended for another year, if the child has not graduated from high school yet but is still studying).
Child support can be modified at any time provided that a parent can demonstrate that circumstances have changed significantly. For example, a parent change in jobs causing that parent to earn more (or less), or when the number of overnights the child stays with each parent varies or changes considerably.
There are many factors and specific nuances in the regulations that can be taken into consideration in determining the amount and rate of support. It is therefore essential to seek the advice of a family lawyer in Florida that will assist you to face this process in the least traumatic way and achieve the best possible result.
Nico Apfelbaum, Esq. is the managing attorney of Apfelbaum Law, a Florida law firm serving Port St. Lucie, Stuart, the Treasure Coast and assisting clients with matters throughout Florida. Apfelbaum Law provides a wide variety of legal services, including, family law, divorces, business and contract transactions and litigation, immigration, wills and estate planning, probate law, and real estate law. Apfelbaum Law understands the sensitive nature of family law matters, and can assist and advise its clients on how Florida law governs family relationships, and can protect their rights. The attorneys of Apfelbaum Law will answer your questions, explain your options, and provide you with the tools and resources you need to make an informed decision.