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Florida Child Support: Understanding The Basics

Are you and your significant other splitting up? If you have children, you’re probably wondering what the financial implications will be. We understand how stressful and emotionally turbulent this process can be, and to help provide some clarity, in this blog entry we are going to break down the basics of the child support system here in Florida.

If there is anything we can do to help you through this challenging time, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (305) 984-4287.

Child support in Florida is straightforward in principle, but the details can get complicated. Here’s the simple part: if you have a child, you have financial responsibilities for the child. It doesn’t matter if you and your partner have been married, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re the child’s mother or father.

To an extent calculating support is simple too; it’s based primarily on factors such as income and the amount of time each parent has the child, but there are many potential complications. Florida uses a model called the income share model to calculate child support levels. In theory, the income share model is intended to ensure the child has the same standard of living he would have had if his parents had stayed together.

There are guidelines online that assist in calculating child support obligations according to the income share model. To arrive at a rough estimate, parents can add together their incomes and look up the total income amount plus the number of children they have. The resulting figure is what the two of them together have to pay every month. Each parent needs to make a contribution that’s proportional to his or her income relative to the total.

Let’s suppose the combined payment—the total contribution the parents need to make each month to their child’s support—is $1,000, and the combined income of the parents is $5,000. If the mother makes $4,000 and the father makes $1,000, the mother is responsible for 4/5 of the child support, or $800, and the father is responsible for 1/5, or $200.

These calculations are complicated by the details of the time sharing. If the child in the example above lives with his mother and spends less than twenty percent of his nights at his father’s house, the father is required to pay the mother $200. The mother doesn’t pay anything directly in this case; the assumption is that the custodial parent is already spending his or her share of child-rearing costs directly for childcare.

What if the child spends more than twenty percent of his time with his father? This makes child support more complicated. The basic child support amount, in our example the $1,000, is multiplied by 150%. Each parent is then responsible for a portion of the total based both on income and the percentage of time the child spends with him or her.

To further complicate matters, expenses such as health insurance and child care are added to the total child support obligation, but these expenses are split based only on income and not on parenting time.

Exceptional circumstances sometimes result in an amount other than the guideline amount being approved. These so-called deviations usually come about because the child has unusual expenses, such as medical expenses, or because one of the parents has unusual expenses or assets.

A parent must show a significant change in circumstances in order to get the amount modified once the court has made a decision about a child support amount. Child support obligations usually continue until the child is 18 or up to high school graduation if the child is still in school with an expected graduation date before the 19th birthday.

As you can imagine, this process has the potential to become very complex and messy. What’s more, the decision made by the court has financial implications, both for you and for your child, for years to come. That’s why it’s so important that you have an experienced family law attorney on your team. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us today to schedule your appointment!

Author Bio

Vanessa Vasquez de Lara is the founder and owner of Vasquez de Lara Law Group, a Miami family law firm. With over 20 years of experience in family law, she has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including divorces, child support, child custody, alimony, and other family law cases.

Vanessa received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2002 and is a member of the Florida Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named to the 2015 Super Lawyers Rising Stars and the 2016-2023 Super Lawyers list.

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