Florida law requires parties to a contested divorce, uncontested divorce or paternity proceeding calculate child support as part of the final judgment. Florida law provides guidelines for calculating child support which are based on the following factors:
- (A) The respective income of each parent;
- (B) medical insurance expenses for the child;
- (C) deductions, such as payment of medical insurance, taxes and child support payments for other children;
- (D) childcare expenses;
- (E) amount of overnights each parent enjoys with the child(ren).
Calculating child support is typically more complicated than it seems, and often online calculators available for Florida are inaccurate. My firm uses the Divorce Power Analyzer (“DPA”) to calculate child support. DPA is typically the same program utilized by the court. Assuming the client has all the relevant financial data, with DPA, I can provide clients with an accurate assessment of potential awards. Of course, I will not know the exact amount in cases with contested time-sharing schedules, because a ruling on the number of overnights will be necessary prior to the calculation.
Can We Agree to Pay Zero Child Support?
Generally, courts will not allow the parties to agree to zero child support, the theory being that it belongs to the children not to the parents. If one or both parents wish to deviate from the Florida guidelines, the parents should file a motion to deviate from the guidelines. The motion should contain detailed information about why a deviation from the established guidelines is in the best interest of the child(ren). Typically, the motion will contain detailed financial or time-sharing information supporting the request. For example, a parent may pay for private school or the parties have equal time-sharing. Since courts must make detailed findings when deviating from the guidelines, the more information you place in a motion and present to the court the better your chances are for a favorable ruling.
Under Florida law, an existing child support order may be modified if the amount of the existing support obligation changes by more than 15% or $50, whichever amount is greater.
If a parent experiences a substantial change in financial circumstances, it is prudent to seek a change of an existing support order. Here are some examples of circumstances warranting a modification:
- A parent is involuntarily unemployed.
- A parent obtains employment with a substantially greater income compared to the income utilized to calculate an existing support order.
- A substantial change in child care costs incurred due to employment, job search, or education calculated to result in employment or to enhance the income of the current employment of either parent shall be added to the basic obligation.
- A parent’s parenting time increases above 20% of the total parenting time of the child.
In certain circumstances, a Florida court may impute income to a parent for the purposes of calculating child support. The most common circumstance where a court will “impute” income is when a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.
Imputed income is determined based upon a parent’s recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community. The law related to child support in Florida can be complex and frequently requires an expert. If you have further questions about child support or child custody in Jacksonville, Florida, The Taylor Law Office can help.
For a free initial consultation with an attorney about child support or modifying child support in the Jacksonville, Florida area, please submit a consultation request below or call 904-339-5298.