If you and your spouse file for divorce in Florida and have children, the court will calculate the amount of required child support using a three-step process:
- Arriving at a base amount using the income shares model
- Consulting the Florida state child support guidelines
- Reviewing extra expenses such as daycare services, health insurance, and uninsured medical expenses
The goal is to ensure that the children do not experience an extreme or adverse change in their financial circumstances due to their parents’ divorce. Below is a detailed overview of how child support is calculated and adjusted in Florida.
Determining the Base Amount
The base amount of child support is determined by using the income shares model, which is designed to ensure that divorced or separated parents continue to spend the same amount of money on their children that they would have done if the relationship hadn’t dissolved.
To begin, both parents must file financial affidavits regarding their income and expenses. There are two versions of this form:
- A simplified one for gross parental income totalling $50,000 or less
- A more detailed document for parents who gross more than $50,000 per year
Income for the purposes of calculating child support includes wages or salary (including overtime), business income, Social Security and disability benefits, spousal support, unemployment benefits, and more.
Consulting the Guidelines
After gross income is established, each parent may deduct allowable costs and expenses to arrive at a monthly net income. Examples of permitted deductions include:
- Local, state, and federal taxes
- Health insurance premiums for the parents
- Retirement fund contributions
- Union dues
The court then adds the two incomes together using the income shares model as a guide and consults the Florida state child support guidelines to determine an amount based on parental income and the number of children. Each parent is assigned a support percentage based on their net income. For example, the higher-earning spouse may be responsible for 60%, while the spouse who earns less or works fewer hours is responsible for 40%.
Guidelines cannot cover all possible situations, so judges have the discretion to vary the amount ordered up to 5% above or below the recommended total. Greater adjustments are also allowed if the judge explains in writing why the amount in the guidelines isn’t appropriate for this particular divorce situation. (One common example is the presence of a special needs child.)
Reviewing Other Expenses
After assigning a percentage of the determined support amount to each parent, the court may review additional expenses such as those below and update the total once again:
- Child care expenses, such as daycare
- Healthcare premiums
- Educational costs
Each parent will remain responsible for the same percentage even after adjustments.
You and your spouse may want to come to your own arrangement instead of splitting expenses proportionally. For example, if your job offers the better healthcare coverage, you may offer to be responsible for the children’s health expenses if your spouse covers educational or child care costs. In most cases this type of agreement will be allowed, but the court must approve it first.
Although it is mostly governed by statute, child support can be a complicated matter, especially if your children have special needs or one spouse has limited earning ability. The Aguilera Law Center will guide you and act as your advocate during the calculation process so that your children get the support they need and deserve in an arrangement that is fair to both spouses. For more information or schedule a meeting with Alejandra Aguilera, please contact us.