# Does Private Tuition Qualify for Credit of Child Support in Florida?

By Terry White

Child support payments in Florida are determined by a mix of family and financial factors. Because life is constantly changing, it’s sometimes necessary to tweak a child support plan to account for new circumstances. This could happen should the former spouses decide to enroll their child in private school. The paying parent might feel entitled to deduct the tuition from the monthly child support payment. Is that proper in Florida?

## Calculating Child Support in Florida

Florida's child-support formula assigns payments in direct proportion to the parents' net incomes; the more a parent earns, the more the parent pays. The formula also factors in the number of children and how many nights a month they spend with each parent. State law gives judges latitude to adjust the payment up or down by 5 percent based on the court's discretion. For example, a judge may increase child support payments for such things as special needs, medical conditions or private school tuition. A parent seeking deviations in child support greater than 5 percent must make a request to the court and provide evidence to support the modification.

## Child Support Examples

To calculate each parent’s share of the monthly support payment in Florida, divide each parent’s income by their combined earnings. For instance, if one parent makes \$5,000 a month and the other \$1,000, the top earner contributes 83 percent of child support; the other, 17 percent. Baseline monthly support payments are set by Florida state courts. Under the courts’ payment schedule, parents with a combined income of \$6,000 a month would pay \$1,121 a month for one child. The top earner’s share would be 83 percent, or \$930.

## Private School Tuition

The Florida courts’ child support payment schedule is a starting point. Several regular, recurring expenses are not automatically included in the baseline calculation, such as day care, private school, summer camp and extracurricular activities. If the child is enrolled in these activities before the divorce, the court will take the cost into account when calculating monthly child support payments.

## Subtracting New Support Expenses

After the judge finalizes the divorce and approves the child support plan, family circumstances can change. A child’s educational needs may need to be reassessed. Perhaps the former spouses decide to enroll their child in a private school. The parent who pays the tuition might feel he or she can simply deduct that amount from monthly child support payments. But because child support payments are based on a court order, that’s not the case in Florida.

## Motion for Modification

Once a court has made an initial child support order, a parent who wants to tweak the plan must show substantial, ongoing changes in circumstances. The former spouses should return to the court that issued the support plan and ask the judge to modify it. In a case involving private school tuition, the court will typically subtract the cost from the parents’ income and recalculate the monthly support payment based on the lower income figure.