When parents undergo a Florida divorce, child support is often one of the most hotly debated elements that arise during the process. Determining child support orders, enforcing the payments, ensuring fairness, and modifying orders if needed are all pertinent concerns for many divorce and post-judgment cases. The process of establishing a child support order is best done through the assistance of an attorney.
Child Support Guidelines in Florida
Florida has specific child support guidelines in place, as established in Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes. Florida law mandates that a judge have the authority to determine child support order amounts, with a five-percent margin in either direction of the Florida standard guidelines. Florida’s guidelines consider several factors when determining child support orders, including the following:
- The income of each parent – Income as defined by Florida law includes wages or salary, bonus income, commission, allowances, tips, overtime payments, or payments from businesses or self-employment. Income also may include Social Security benefits, retirement payments, pension, spousal support received from a previous spouse, disability, or workers’ compensation benefits. One scenario involving income that will impact child support is the payment of alimony. The payment of alimony to the other spouse will typically cause a reduction in child support. Why? Alimony is an allowable deduction in calculating a party’s Net Monthly Income under Fla. Stat. 61.30(3)(g) for the purpose of calculating child support. The paying spouse’s deduction of his court ordered spousal support payments from his income will produce a lower monthly net income and lower child support obligation. One should also consider the tax implications of structuring the payment of alimony and child support. Keep in mind that child support is not tax deductible. On the other hand, court order alimony payments are deducted directly from your gross income, thus reducing your taxable income.
- Expenses – Florida law also allows for certain expenses to be considered in the process of determining child support order amounts, including the cost of health insurance and child care costs for employment or education.
- Factors Effecting Child Support – Florida law identifies several specific circumstances that may impact one’s monthly child support obligation. Consider the following: The parent who is paying for the child’s health insurance will receive a “credit” that will reduce what he or she will be obligated to pay pursuant to the Florida Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.One factor that will have an impact on the amount owed in child support will depend on whether the parent exercises “substantial time-sharing.” The factors that the Court may consider in adjusting child support are listed under Fla. Stat. 61.30(11).
- Five Percent Variance – A judge may order payment of child support which varies, plus or minus 5 percent, from the amount determined by the guideline, after considering the needs of the child, age, station in life, standard of living, and the financial status and ability of each parent.
Failure to Pay Child Support
Once child support has been ordered, it is crucial that the individual ordered to make payments do so properly. Failure to pay child support has serious legal consequences in Florida, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Loss of driver’s license
- Incarceration if found in contempt of court
It is crucial that anyone making child support payments report any circumstances that may affect their ability to pay, such as a substantial loss of income, incurring medical expenses, or even an increase in income of the other parent. Child support orders can be modified after the divorce is final if the court finds that the situation warrants a change. Anyone wishing to modify a child support order will be required to file a petition of modification with the court for review by a judge. The court will carefully consider the circumstances of the petition before making a decision. It is important to understand the consequences of failing to pay and know that there is help available if changes need to be made.
If you have questions about child support, divorce, paternity or are curious about modifying a child support order, contact the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. We are happy to help clients with a variety of family law needs, including establishing or modifying child support orders. We serve clients all across Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin Counties. Contact the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. today at (561) 429-3924 or via email at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.