Whenever someone has questions about child support I always try to take the time to explain the ins and outs to them as to how child support amounts are arrived at in the state of Florida and how that actually works in practice for the parents. Unlike alimony, or spousal support, that is driven by the individual facts of each case and the discretion of each Judge, child support is strictly calculated using a very specific mathematical formula based primarily on the number of children at issue, the parents’ incomes and the timesharing schedule. My next two blogs will detail the ways in which child support actually works, both in implementation and in practice.
For Part I, here are the first five important factors to know about child support in the state of Florida.
1. Child Support Utilizes Net Incomes
When calculating child support, the court will ultimately utilize only the net incomes of the parents. This means that proper deductions for monthly taxes, health care expenses and mandatory retirement payments will work to reduce a person’s gross pay in order to arrive at their net income. In practice, this can work to reduce the income amounts utilized for child support purposes in significant ways, depending on how many legal deductions a parent may be entitled to. Due to the use of net incomes, it becomes vitally important to ensure the court utilizes an accurate income figure, as it could greatly impact what the final child support numbers come out to be.
2. Deductions for Prior Court Ordered Child Support
If the party being ordered to pay child support, usually the father, has previously been ordered to pay child support for another child, then those court ordered Florida child support payment amounts paid for to any other child will be deducted from that party’s gross income in order to arrive at their net income. Many times, if a person has other children that they have been ordered to pay child support for, then the mother of the youngest child could end up receiving significantly less in child support than she would if the other parent was not subject to other existing child support orders. Unfortunately, the old saying and legal principle, “last in time, last in line,” can apply here in the area of child support to reduce the overall support received for one parent based on the child support received by another parent.
3. Health/Dental and Daycare Costs Are Important
In calculating child support, the monthly expenses for the children’s daycare, and medical and dental costs will be considered and included in the mathematical formula used to establish child support. It’s important to keep records of these costs, and in particular, to ascertain exactly how much the health/dental insurance costs are for just the children, as that will be credited and considered in the final child support determinations. If health or dental insurance coverage is provided through either party’s employer, then it may become necessary to obtain a breakdown of costs in order to determine how much it costs just for the children’s coverage, as only those amounts expended towards the children’s coverage will be utilized in the child support guidelines.
4. Time Sharing Is Driving Factor
The driving factor behind child support, income levels aside, would be how much time each parent is spending with the children. When considering timesharing, the important factor is the number of overnights that you spend with your children each year. In general, the more overnights that a parent exercises with a child, the less they will pay in child support. If there is an equal timesharing schedule, and the incomes of each parent are relatively equal, then it’s likely that neither parent will owe the other child support. If, however, one parent makes more money than the other, or if one parent spends more overnights with the children than the other, then in most cases the parent making more money, or spending less time with the children, will end up paying child support.
5. Rarely Will Child Support Be Enough to Cover Full Costs of Children
One of the more difficult realities for a parent to come to grasps with as it comes to child support laws, is that whatever the child support amount ends up being, it’s unlikely that it will be enough to cover all of the costs associated with raising your children each month. In this respect, income levels don’t really seem to matter, as whatever the incomes may be, the child support is likely still going to be insufficient to cover all of the monthly costs for the children. I mention this only as a preliminary warning that if a parent is relying on child support to cover all of their monthly costs for the children, then they may be sadly disappointed when the reality of the actual payments hits home.