Budgeting for the costs of raising a child is something that every parent must consider on a regular basis. While you certainly cannot put a value on the life of a child, you can certainly put a price on the food, clothing, and shelter which are essential to their wellbeing. It’s for this reason that the court system requires that child support be paid when the biological parents of children are not living in the same household. The goal in Florida is to ensure that both parents contribute to the costs of raising a child.
What is Child Support?
Child support is a system of regular payments made by one parent to the other parent depending on the relative incomes of the parties, certain statutory deductions and the number of overnights that the child spends with each parent.
How Child Support Is Calculated
In Florida, child support is calculated on a monthly basis and may be paid in monthly, bi-weekly or weekly payments to the other parent. The amount of a child support obligation can vary greatly. Florida Statutes outlines the amount of child support based on the combined incomes of the parties and has developed a Child Support Guideline Calculator which determines the specific obligation considering the variables. There is no average amount because every family has different income scenarios, different timesharing schedules, and different deductions to consider.
In Florida, it is possible for a parent who has a majority of time with his or her children, to still be required to pay child support to the other parent if the “primary” parent earns more money. Additionally, it is not unusual for one party to be required to pay child support even if the parties have an equal, or 50/50, timesharing schedule since the amount of child support is directly related to the incomes of the parents.
In Florida, child support lasts until the child has turned 18 years old, or if the child has not graduated from high school, at that time but unless there are unusual circumstances, the child support will not continue past the age of 19. There are certain exceptions to that age limitation, and there are circumstances in which child support could be ordered for older children such as the existence of a disability, a special need or other exceptional circumstance.
In Florida, child support cannot be waived by the parents or significantly reduced from the amount that the guideline shows, without Court approval. In other words, one party cannot agree to waive child support in exchange for an agreement on other terms such as visitation or property settlements.
Imputation of Income
Another important aspect of child support that parents need to be aware of is what is called imputation of income. For example, if you used to earn a large income but have decided not to earn as much, your income could be imputed to at the amount you are capable of earning. You also could be imputed to earn at least minimum wage should you be unemployed even if you don’t currently have a job. Sometimes the decision not to work, when it comes to child support, can hurt you on a child support obligation.
Even though Florida has a Child Support Guideline Worksheet and has a statutory “calculator” for determining child support, it doesn’t mean that the issue does not have complexities that could make a difference in the amount you are required to pay. Child Support in Florida is not optional, but knowing the key factors to have considered in your guideline calculations can be critical to the outcome of your case and the ongoing obligation you may have to the other parent.