In the state of Florida, the award of child support is controlled by specific guidelines set out in state statute. While the exact amount of child support will be affected by many variables, there are a few key components that arise in every case. The guidelines are established to avoid litigation and create an equitable financial responsibility between the parents.
1. The Initial Income Calculation
The basic award of child support is premised on a calculation of the combined net income of both parents, as if they were still together as a family. Then, an amount is calculated for a minimum amount to support the child, which the parents will share paying.
For example, a combined monthly income of $3000 results in a $644 necessary allocation for child support for one child. Additional children increase the amount. These amounts are set out in a schedule in the Florida statute, which lists amounts for all income ranges and number of children.
2. Adding Health Insurance and Childcare Costs
After the initial calculation, there will be a consideration of health insurance and uncovered medical expenses well as any day care costs incurred because of employment, job search or education . Those amounts will be added to the above minimum support level. Medical expenses or childcare costs that are already being paid by one parent, will be deducted from their eventual dollar amount obligation.
3. Parental Percentage Based on Income
The single most important factor in your child support award will depend on how much income that you have in relation to your ex-spouse. Once the total support amount is determined, each parent's income is divided by their combined net income to arrive at a percentage for each. Even if you are the custodial parent, if you earn 40% of the combined net income, you will pay 40% of the total child support.
In the $3000 dollar combined income example, the calculation would look like this for the $644 basic support amount:
Custodial Parent: $1200 monthly income = 40% of combined income
X $644 = $257.60
Non-custodial Parent: $1800 monthly income = 60% of combined income
X $644 = $386.40
Therefore, the non-custodial parent would make a basic monthly support payment of $386.40 to the custodial parent.
4. Specific Situations That Adjust the Award
At this point, the court may adjust the minimum award or each parent's share based upon a number of factors including:
- Unusual medical, dental or educational expenses
- Assets of both parents
- Whether the child has independent income
- Special needs expenses such as disability
- Pre-existing debts
- Instances where one parent would be paying more than 55% of gross income
5. Number of Overnight Stays with the Non-Custodial Parent
The number of overnights each year will also affect the award of child support. If the number of nights exceeds 73 per year, then the parent with less custody would have their obligation reduced, since they are providing food and shelter beyond the reach of the formula.
All of these factors are designed to compute both the ability to provide support along with expenses already being paid to arrive at the support amount. Given their complexity, it may be helpful to have a Florida family law attorney help you determine potential award amounts.