Florida Statute 61.30 provides guidelines for the award of child support to a custodial parent. The “obligor” under the support order is generally the parent with whom the child spends less time. Although the law provides guidelines and the courts use a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet to calculate the support amount, there is some room for discretion in every case. Therefore, a parent wishing to establish a support order should always seek the advice of a child support lawyer, particularly if there are circumstances which may warrant a deviation from the standard support amount.
The Child Support Case of Miami Heat’s Mario Chalmers
Mario Chalmers, point guard for the Miami Heat, is embroiled in a court battle with the mother of his five-year-old child over the amount of his support obligation. He recently appealed a trial court order requiring him to increase his support obligation from $2,600 per month to $10,000. The modification was based on what the court considered Mr. Chalmer’s “good fortune” in obtaining a $400,000 per month contract with the Miami Heat. The court believed that it was legitimate to give the child a lifestyle commensurate with that of her wealthy father. The fact that Mr. Chalmers pays his personal assistant $10,000 per month also factored into the court’s decision.
Chalmer’s attorney argued that the child’s needs did not justify the higher award. Previously, the need was set at $800 per month, but the mother submitted an amended affidavit which raised the amount to $2,200. In addition, Chalmer’s attorney challenged the order’s grant of ultimate decision-making authority over education and medical issues to the mother. The attorney also asserted that the mother benefited more than the child from the increase and that the mother could earn more if she fully utilized her educational potential.
The mother, who works part-time and earns $1,000 per month, argued through her attorney that the money was necessary for private school for the child, that $6,000 of it was being placed in a co-guardianship account for the child’s future educational and health needs, and that, despite her best efforts to engage him in the child’s life, the father has chosen not to participate because he is busy doing other things. She also stated that she wishes to continue her education but cannot afford to do so.
The Florida child support guidelines require a court to consider both parents’ net incomes, the child’s health care and child care costs, and the standard needs for the child in its determination of support. Per the guidelines set forth in Florida Statute 61.30, the presumptive monthly child support amount would be $1,437 plus 5% of the monthly net income of both parents above $10,000. A monthly net income of $400,000 would therefore set the monthly support amount at above $20,000. This amount can be modified plus or minus 5% by the court after considering all relevant factors such as the needs and age of the child, the standard of living, and the financial status and ability of each parent. In addition, the court can deviate more than 5% upon a written finding explaining why following the guidelines explicitly would be unjust or inappropriate. It is unclear in this case why, given Mr. Chalmer’s net monthly income, the court did not order a higher support award than the $10,000.
As the above case illustrates, the determination of child support orders is not necessarily clear-cut. The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. assists individuals in South Florida with their family law needs, including those establishing support orders for their minor children. Please call us toll-free at 1 (800) 558-1227, or locally at (561) 429-3924, for a confidential consultation.