Each state has different rules when it comes to child support, but Florida allocates the support amount between parents based on each parent’s share of the spouses’ combined income. This model of determining child support, called the income shares model, is based on the idea that children should receive the same financial support during the divorce process, and once the divorce is finalized, as they received when their parents were still married.
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The basis for Florida’s child support calculations is each parent’s gross income, which includes wages, bonuses, commissions, business income, disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, pension payments, social security benefits and rental income, among other types of income. Public assistance payments are specifically excluded from a parent’s gross income. Florida courts impute certain income to parents who are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, so the court can calculate a parent’s child support payments as if the parent earned more money than he actually does.
Once the court determines a parent’s gross income, it deducts certain mandatory payments, like taxes, from the amount to arrive at each parent’s net income. This figure is used to determine the percentage of support each parent is responsible for. The court can further adjust the child support amount, or a parent's share of it, to account for certain additional expenses, such as the child's health insurance premiums, non-covered medical expenses and day care.
Paying Child Support
In Florida, a paying parent does not pay child support directly to the recipient parent. Florida law requires courts to enter a separate income deduction order once the court enters a child support order. The income deduction order requires the paying parent’s employer to deduct the child support payments directly from the paying parent’s wages, plus past due amounts, if any. Payments for child support orders issued in 1994 or after must be sent directly to the State Disbursement Unit for distribution to the recipient parent.
Deviation from Guidelines
Florida courts can deviate from the child support guidelines, when appropriate, after considering several factors. These include extraordinary medical expenses, the age of the child and the particular parenting plan for that child. For example, if a parenting plan permits the child to spend significant amounts of time with the paying parent, but less than 20 percent of his overnights, the court could reduce the amount of child support the paying parent must pay since the amount of time the child spends with that parent reduces the other parent’s expenses. When a parenting plan’s terms direct that a child spend at least 20 percent of his overnights with the paying parent, Florida’s guidelines have an additional formula that takes these overnights into consideration and adjusts the child support amount accordingly.