How is child support calculated in Florida?
There is a formula in the statute which is known as the Child Support Guidelines. Basically, the parties’ combined net income is considered along with the number of children. The statute then gives a figure for the total support needed for the children. From this it can be determined how much support a parent will pay. The living expenses of the paying parent are not in general considered except in extreme circumstances.
Can the Courts deviate from the Child Support Guidelines?
In general, the Courts have the discretion to deviate upward or downward 5% and if they want to deviate more than that, there must be legally sufficient reasons presented to the Court. It is relatively rare that the Courts deviate more than 5% from the guidelines, although it can be done in exceptional circumstances. One example of this may be where a child has special needs such as the need for costly medication.
Other examples of when a deviation can occur are when a parent spends a “significant” or “substantial” period of time with the children, or conversely, when that parent does not spend much time with the children. There is also the question of whether the existence of “subsequent” children (ie children living with a parent who were born or adopted after the support obligation arose) is justification to deviate from the child support guidelines.
Do the Child Support Guidelines take into account such things as health insurance and day care needs for the child?
Yes. The statute describes how these items are to be factored into the child support equation.
Can the Court impute income to me if I want to stay home with my small children?
The Court has the authority to refrain from imputing income to a parent who needs to stay home with young children, but it is still in the Court’s discretion as to whether to do this. A spouse can argue, for example, that there is quality daycare available at a reasonable cost and that the children will do fine with this type of arrangement.
What if my spouse is not paying child support, can I deprive them of visitation?
In general the answer to this is no.
What if my spouse will not pay support as ordered?
The Court can order the support to be taken directly out of the person’s paycheck and of course people can be held in contempt for failure to pay court ordered support. A driver’s license or other licenses can be suspended for failure to pay child support. Lastly, if a party is unemployed or underemployed and fails to pay court ordered support, the judge can order the party to seek employment and enter a job-training or work program.
How long do I have to pay child support?
Though it depends upon what was agreed to, but by court order, in general, you pay child support until 18 although if the child is in school and will graduate high school by their 19th birthday, then child support may continue until then. Support for special needs children may be indefinite.
Do I have to go to Court to terminate child support at either 18 or 19?
Yes, under certain circumstances.
What about college expenses for children?
Courts cannot order a party to pay for a child’s college, but if the parties come to an agreement that one party is to provide such support, then the Court can enforce the agreement.
For more information, please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Rooney & Rooney, P.A.