Child Support Guidelines
By Michael H. Gora
Q What are “Child Support Guidelines” for Florida residents? How do they work? Does it matter how much people make, whether or no both parents are working? I read in your recent column, that a court has to consider the wife as working, even if she does not. Is there a way for me to figure out what the guidelines would be, if I decided to get divorced?
A: Child support guidelines are the Florida Legislature’s instructions to the courts and Florida citizens regarding the amount two parents, who are divorcing, should contribute to the support of their children. The “Guidelines”, and instructions on applying them, are found in Florida Statute 61.30. The Guidelines, along with work sheets, are on the internet, at many sites; type in the words, “Florida Child Support Guidelines.”
To determine guideline support you must calculate, accurately, your income, and your spouse’s income, net of taxes, and mandatory payments. Often the parties disagree on the other’s true income. Voluntary contributions to pension plans are not deducted.
The two net income numbers are added. Then, refer to the guidelines for a monthly support amount, which will be driven by the amount of your combined net income, and the number of children, born to you or adopted by you. There is no provision for support of un-adopted stepchildren.
Prorate the resulting gross child support number between you and your spouse. If you earn 80% of the total net income, you will be paying 80% of the support. There are additional matters to consider, such as adjusting for the payment of the child’s health insurance. The cost of day care, for work purposes, must be calculated and divided proportionately.
A major adjustment takes place if one parent pays alimony to the other. The income of the alimony paying parent reduces his or her income in the amount of the alimony and the alimony receiving parent’s income is increased by the amount of alimony he or she receives.
Additional adjustments are based upon the number of overnights children spend which each parent a year.
Special costs are added for necessities, such as care for special needs children. Additions can accommodate the lifestyle of the parties if it includes private school, summer camp, or other luxuries.
In addition, the courts may impute income to either parent who is unemployed or underemployed. Before imputation of income, a court must find proof of work skills, job availability and the absence of special needs of a child, which would require the parent’s full time attention.
Michael H. Gora has been certified by the Board of Specialization of The Florida Bar as a specialist in family and matrimonial law, and is a partner with Shapiro Blasi Wasserman & Gora P.A. in Boca Raton. Mr. Gora may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.