Florida Child Support Can Be Reduced or Increased Due to Visitation

1340700_playground_climbing_area.jpgChild support in Florida cases is based on the income of the parties and the total income of a shared household. The pro rata share of each party’s income is a determining factor in the overall calculation of child support. As a Jacksonville lawyer handling child support cases, I try to educate my clients on what child support is meant to provide, including a roof over the child’s head, electricity and water for the child, gas in the car to transport the child, etc. A factor in the determination of child support is time-sharing or visitation exercised by the parties. In Florida, there is an automatic calculation of time-sharing at 20% of the time and anything over that amount may be a factor in reducing the amount of child support. In addition, the Florida child support guidelines provide credits for multiple items, including but not limited, daycare expenses and health insurance. In determining the income of the parties, the Florida Statute allows for the income of the parties to be determined based on taxable and nontaxable income, so if a party is in the military that party’s BAH and BAS pay will be considered income.

Florida family law cases are often required to go to mediation to determine child support, time-sharing (e.g. visitation or custody pre 2008), and the like. A mediated agreement is an agreement between the parties regarding all aspects of the case and it is reduced to writing and entered as an order with the court. However, if the parties do not have a time-sharing plan that is ultimately formalized into writing and entered by the court, then child support may be impacted. For example, if the case ONLY involves child support, such as cases brought by the Florida State Department of Revenue, then child support will be calculated without a time-sharing plan.

Sometimes, parents decide that they do no need to go to court to establish a time-sharing plan because they already have a verbal agreement and there are no visitation issues associated with their case. As such, the parties may allow the court to determine child support without actually entering a true time-sharing plan with the court. However, in 2011 the 1st District Court of Appeals in Florida made it clear that child support calculations may only defer from the usual 20% time-sharing credit IF the time-sharing plan is reduced to writing and entered as a time-sharing plan with the court. In the case before the appellate court, the parties had agreed to a verbal time-sharing plan where the nonresidential parent had the child 40% of the time. The appeals court found that unless the time-sharing plan was reduced to writing and approved by the court, then the 40% time-sharing that had been established by the parties could not reduce child support. Therefore, the paying party was required to pay more than would have been necessary had the time-sharing plan been entered with the court. DOR o/b/o Sherman v. Daly, 74 So.3d 165 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011).

If you have a child support case, it is important to file a counter-petition to request that a time-sharing plan be entered by the court so that child support and your time-sharing can be properly established.