Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
As a family lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida, I handle cases involving child support. Often when I meet with clients they are concerned not only about the visitation they will have, but also whether they will be required to pay child support. The next thing clients want to know is how much the child support will be. While I understand the financial concerns regarding child support, I try to also educate clients on what child support is meant to provide for the child. Basically, in Florida, child support is designed to help maintain a lifestyle for the child that is similar to that which she or he would have if the parents remained in the same household. So, what is considered in determining Florida Child Support?
First, Florida Statute 61.30 regards child support as a necessity for the child, which cannot be negotiated away. Since the benefit is for the child and not the parent, the parents are not supposed to negotiate the right to child support. The idea is that the child is not able to make such a determination and the parents’ role is to protect the child and look out for his or her best interests. In so doing, Florida believes that determining child support and paying child support is vital to properly caring for the child.
Second, Florida Child Support Guidelines provide for the calculation to be used in determining what will be owed in a child support case. The guidelines first start with the incomes of the parties. Child support is meant to determine the overall financial needs for the child, as if the parents were in one house. In so doing, the calculation requires that both parties’ incomes are put into the equation to determine the Father and Mother’s pro rata share of the combined income. For example, Cathy and Sam are divorcing and have a child together; their combined income is $100,000. Cathy makes $40,000 per year and Sam makes $60,000 per year. Therefore, Cathy’s pro rata share of their combined income is 40% and Sam’s is 60%.
Next, the guideline looks at which parent pays for certain monthly expenses for the child. For example, if Sam provides for health insurance for the child at $100 per month and he pays for the child’s daycare at $800 per month. Well, Sam is given credit for these payments, which may decrease what he would pay in child support or it may increase what Cathy will pay in child support depending on who has the child the majority of the time.
Then, the guidelines also look at the time-sharing of each parent. For example, if the Cathy and Sam are going to have equal time-sharing (though not the norm for North Florida cases), then child support will be reduced accordlingly. The idea is that if a parent is going to have the child equal time, then both parents will be contributing to the everyday needs of the child, equally. However, it does not mean that no child support will be owed. Again, if Sam makes $60,000 per year to Cathy’s $40,000 per year, then there may need to be some money paid to Cathy by Sam even if the time-sharing is 50/50.
Child support does give credits for some other miscellaneous items, so it is beneficial to speak with an experienced family law attorney to best understand your rights and options when dealing with such matters.