Child Support Lawyer in Florida
Florida, like all states, requires both biological or adoptive parents to contribute to the financial support of their joint children. When the parents no longer live together and one of them assumes primary custody, a family court judge will require the other parent to pay monthly child support.
To determine the amount of the monthly payment, family law judges in Florida use what’s known as the income shares model. This model considers what the two parents currently earn and what they would have spent on their children if they had remained together. A judge then determines the amount based on the combined monthly income of the two parents and the number of children that they share. He or she bases this decision on Florida Statute 61.30, which requires the judge to abide by the state guidelines unless exceptional circumstances exist.
The state statute allows family law judges to deviate from the formula by five percent in either direction if he or she personally feels the situation warrants it. If a judge desires to set the monthly support amount outside of the five percent range, he or she must draft a written report explaining the justification for such an action.
Each Parent Must Submit Financial Affidavits to the Court
Florida law requires each parent to complete and submit a financial affidavit to the family court that details his or her income and expenses. After the court receives a copy of each affidavit, it provides a copy to the other party. The first part of the form requires the party completing it to list gross income from all sources. These sources could include:
- Wages or salary from a full-time or part-time job
- Income earned from self-employment defined as gross receipts from a sole proprietorship, close corporation, or independent contracts less necessary and ordinary business expenses
- Allowances, bonuses, commission, overtime pay, and tips
- Income received from disability benefits, workers’ compensation, or unemployment compensation
- Re-employment assistance
- Benefits earned from social security
- Annuity, pension, or retirement benefits
- Dividends and interest from investment
- Spousal maintenance payments received from the current divorce proceeding or a previous one
- Gains earned from property dealings
- Income from estates, royalties, or trusts
- Rental incomes after deduction of necessary and ordinary expenses to maintain the property
Although this is an extensive list, some parents ordered to pay child support try to underreport what they earn or deliberately take a lower-paying or part-time position during the child support determination phase of the divorce proceeding. Fortunately, the Florida statute gives family law judges the power to impute the income of any parent who attempts this maneuver.
Imputing income means that the court can still determine the available income of the spouse deliberately underreporting income or not working at his or her full potential. Before a family law judge can take this step, he or she must determine that the parent is underemployed through a deliberate choice and not something beyond his or her control. An involuntary reduction in work hours or a layoff are two examples of this. Another instance when the court could impute one parent’s income is if he or she fails to file a financial affidavit as required.
Allowable Deductions from Income
Once the court has calculated the gross income for each parent, the next step is to subtract allowable deductions to arrive at individual income figures. Each deduction allowed reduces the total amount available to divert towards child support. Florida currently permits the following deductions:
- Federal, state, and local taxes deducted from the parent’s paycheck or that he or she pays as a self-employed individual
- Contributions for federal insurance
- Spousal support paid in the current divorce proceeding or a previous one
- Mandatory retirement payments or union dues
- Premiums paid for health insurance minus anything paid towards coverage for the children
- Court-ordered support for other children from previous relationships
Division of Other Expenses
In addition to setting a child support amount, the family court determines a percentage that each parent must pay for expenses such as health insurance and deductibles, childcare costs, and educational expenses. For example, if the father earned 60 percent of the joint income and the mother earned 40 percent, this is the amount that each would be responsible for in paying these expenses. Alternatively, the divorcing parents might wish to each cover one type of expense entirely. The court needs to approve such agreements.
Modifying an Existing Child Support Order
After establishing a child support schedule, the only way to change it is to petition the court based on a substantial or ongoing change of circumstances. A common example here is when a parent involuntarily loses his or her job and no longer earns enough to pay the obligation. The opposite could also happen where the parent paying support receives a substantial boost in income and can afford to pay more.
Receiving Child Support
When a family court orders one spouse to pay child support, the money goes directly to his or her former spouse. The funds do not go to the children directly since they’re minors, and the custodial parent can spend the money as he or she sees fit. The Florida Department of Revenue offers the option of signing up to have the required amount deducted from the obligor’s paycheck and sent to the receiving party via bank direct deposit or deposit to a pre-paid debit card. This is often a good decision in highly contentious divorce cases when payment between parties would not be possible.
Hire an Experienced Florida Child Support Attorney
You would like to think that both you and your divorcing spouse have the best interests of your children at heart and could settle the matter of financial support amicably. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen that way. Even if you don’t expect contention, working with a family law attorney from Crystal Collins Spencer, Attorney at Law ensures that someone is always fighting for you and your children. We invite you to contact us. You can also call us at 850-912-8080
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