Calculating Child Support under Florida Law
The amount of child support that can be ordered under Florida law is based on Florida's child support guidelines that have been established by statute. In essence, the child support calculation is based on the combined net monthly income of the parents and the amount of timesharing (overnight visitation) the parents will have with the children. Net monthly income is generally gross income per month less taxes. The parent having the majority of the timesharing with the children will receive child support and the parent having the minority of the timesharing will be the payor spouse. If the parents have an equal amount of timesharing (50/50) then it is still possible that one parent may have to pay child support to the other if one parent earns more money than the other. There are two formulas used to calculate child support. One formula is used if the payor spouse has less than 20% of the overnight visitation with the children. Another calculation, called the "gross up method" is used if the payor spouse has more than 20% of the overnight visitation. 20% of overnight visitation equates to 73 overnights per year (365 days per year times .20). Generally the costs of health insurance and child care, if there is child care, will be included in the child support calculation with each parent contributing an amount according to their pro rata share of their net monthly income to the net monthly income of both parents combined.
The Court generally will order the parents to pay for uncovered or uninsured medical expenses for the children such as co-pays. Child support ends when the children reach 18 years of age or 19 if still in high school and living at home with a reasonable expectency of graduating high school by the age of 19. If there are more than one child, then the support amount will change as each child reaches 18. There is no legal obligation in Florida to pay for college or support beyond 18 although parents may obligate themselves to do that if they sign a written agreement to do so (this may be included in a Marital Settlement Agreement). However, the Court in Florida may not impose this obligation absent and agreement to do so. The Courts will not approve a child support amount unless it meets Florida's Child Support Guidelines. The Court can only deviate 5% from the guideline amount without making specific findings of fact in a written order justifying deviation from the guidelines. A parent is permitted to pay more than the guideline amount. Sometimes, depending on the affluence of a parent and lifestyle, the Court may order a parent or both to continue to pay for such things as private school education while the child is under the age of 18, etc. Child support can be modified through the Courts as substantial changes occur to the parents such as increase or decrease in income, etc.
If the parents are separated and living apart then the parent with whom the children live can obtain back child support (called retroactive support) from the other parent. The claim for back support can go as far back as the date of separation so long as it is no more than 24 months from the date of the Petition filed with the Court that is requesting support.
This guide is based on Florida law as it exists in 2013 and is only to be used as general information. The author strongly suggests that any person consult with a qualified family law attorney if they have any questions on child support or want their child support calculated. The guide does not establish an attorney client relationship with any person and only such persons who sign a retainer agreeent and pay a retainer are to be considered to have established an attorney client relationship.