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How the Court Calculates Child Support

Sean Photo New By Sean L. Collin

As a family and divorce attorney in Fort Lauderdale and Parkland, Florida, the first question I am often asked during a prospective client meeting is, “How much does each parent owe in child support?” As such, I have created a simplified “cheat sheet” relying on Florida Statute 61.30 – Child Support Guidelines.  61.30 provides the framework for the Court to use when calculating child support.  In brief, the Court should order payment of child support relying on the “guideline amounts”, after considering such factors as, “needs of the child”, “age”, “station in life”, “standard of living”, and the “financial status of each parent”.  Once the Court orders child support, either parent can seek a modification (upwards or downwards) provided there  is a substantial change in circumstances.  A substantial change in circumstances is when “the difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines is at least 15% or $50.00 whichever is greater.   Child support is calculated on net monthly income (gross monthly income – allowable deductions).    Net income from each parent shall be added together for a combined net monthly income. Each parent’s percentage share of the child shall need shall be determined by dividing each parent’s net monthly income by the combined net monthly income.

How does the Court determine each parent’s gross monthly income?
Gross income shall include, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. Salary or Wages.
  2. Bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments.
  3. Business income (gross receipts – ordinary expenses).
  4. Disability benefits.
  5. All worker’s compensation benefits and settlements.
  6. Unemployment compensation.
  7. Pension, retirement, or annuity payments.
  8. Social security benefits.
  9. Spousal support received from a previous marriage or court ordered in the marriage before the court.
  10. Interest and dividends.
  11. Rental income.
  12. Income from royalties, trusts, or estates.
  13. Reimbursed expenses.
  14. Gains derived from dealings in property.

How does the Court determine each parent’s net monthly income?

Net monthly income is calculated by subtracting the allowable deductions from the parent’s gross monthly income.  Allowable deductions include the following:

  1. Federal, state, and local income tax deductions.
  2. Federal insurance contributions (FICA) (tax for retirees, disabled, and children of deceased
    workers) or self-employment tax.
  3. Mandatory union dues.
  4. Mandatory retirement payments.
  5. Health insurance payments, excluding payments for coverage of the minor child.
  6. Court-ordered spousal support for other children which is actually paid.
  7. Spousal support paid pursuant to a Court order from a previous marriage or marriage before the
    Court.

What if one of the parents chooses not to work (voluntary unemployment or underemployment) … Will the Court impute their income for child support?

Possibly.  Monthly income shall be imputed to an unemployed or underemployed parent if such unemployment or underemployment is found by the Court to be voluntary on the parent’s part (absent the finding of physical or mental incapacity or other circumstances over which the parent has no control).

In the event of voluntary unemployment or underemployment, the employment potential and probable earnings of the parent shall be determined based upon his or her recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community.   The Court may refuse to impute income to a parent if the Court finds it necessary for that parent to stay home with the child who is the subject of a child support calculation.

How does the Court use the parents’ combined net income to come up with a child support amount

61.30 includes a child support guideline worksheet to determine the minimum child support need.   The top line includes the number of children that require support; The side line includes the parents’
combined monthly net income.  Matching up the number of children with the parents’ combined monthly net income determines the minimum child support need.

Although this “cheat sheet” will not duplicate the child support guidelines worksheet, it will provide a
few examples for review.   Please note that child care costs incurred due to employment, job search, or education calculated to result in employment or to enhance income shall be added to the basic obligation.  Health insurance costs and any non-covered medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses of the child shall also be added to the basic obligation.  Additionally, the Court may adjust the total minimum child support award based upon deviation factors, including but not limited to: extraordinary medical, psychological, or educational expenses; seasonal variations in one or both parents’ income or expenses; the age of the child; special needs (i.e. disability of a child); and the particular parenting plan, such as where the child spends a significant amount of time, but less than 20% of the overnights, with one parent.

Examples:

Two children.   Parents’ combined monthly net income totaling $2,200.00   The total
minimum child support is $751.00.

One child.  Parents’ combined monthly net income totaling $3,600.00  The total minimum child support is $757.00.

Four children.  Parents’ combined monthly net income totaling $3,600.00.  The total minimum child support is $1,662.00.

Two children.  Parents’ combined monthly net income of $5,500.00.  The total minimum child support is 1,657.00.

In its calculation for child support, does the Court consider if both parents spend a substantial amount of time with the child?

Yes.   Whenever a parenting plans provides that each child spend a substantial amount of time with each parent the Court shall adjust any award of child support as follows: (a substantial amount of time
means that a parent exercises time-sharing at least 20% of the overnights of the year).

  1. Calculate the amount of support obligation apportioned to each parent without including day care and health insurance costs in the calculation and multiply the amount 1.5.
  2. Calculate the percentage of overnight stays the child spends with each parent.
  3. Multiply each parent’s support obligations by the percentage of the other parent’s overnight stays with the child.
  4. The difference between the amounts shall be the monetary transfer necessary between the parents for the care of the child, subject to an adjustment for day care and health insurance coverage for the child.
  5. Calculate the net amounts owed by each parent for the expenses incurred for day care and health insurance coverage for the child.
  6. Adjust the support obligation owed by each parent by crediting or debiting the amount calculated.   This amount represents the child support which must be exchanged between the parents.

Can one parent obtain child support retroactive? 

Yes. In an initial determination of child support, whether in a paternity action, dissolution of marriage (divorce), or petition for support during the marriage, the Court has discretion to award child support retroactive to the date when the parents did not reside together in the same household with the child, not to exceed a period of 24 months preceding the filing of the petition.

If you or a family member is interested in determining how much does each parent will owe in child support please call the Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs family law and divorce attorneys at Lyons, Snyder & Collin for a free consultation.

The authors Philip M. Snyder and Sean L. Collin are founding partners of Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.    Fort Lauderdale family law attorneys Sean L. Collin and Philip M. Snyder handle all family law matters including divorce, paternity, child custody, child support, and modifications.    The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A. is located at 312 Southeast 17th Street, Third Floor, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316.  Telephone: 954.462.8035.

The information in this article site was developed by Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The transmission and receipt of information from this article does not form or constitute an attorney-client relationship with Lyons, Snyder & Collin. Persons receiving the information from this article should not act upon the information provided without seeking profession legal counsel.