Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney
As a Jacksonville, Florida divorce and family law attorney I often have clients that are going through a divorce or paternity case with children. In handling such cases, I believe it is important to educate my clients on child support; it’s use and how it is calculated in Florida. Child support is not simply a magic number than a judge or attorney comes up with, but a guideline calculation based on Florida Statute 61.30. The first step in determining child support is to know the incomes of both parents. The child support calculation is based on the monthly income available to each parent.
In order to calculate guideline child support it is important to know what “income” actually is. While some people work for a company and earn an hourly wage, others work on a salary, while others may work on commission or have their own business. So, how does Florida define income for purposes of calculating child support? Florida Statute 61.30(2)(a) provides a list of what gross income is, but does not limit the income to the following:
1. Salary or wages. This is either the salaried amount of an employee or the wages earned, such as hourly wages gained on a weekly/monthly basis.
2. Bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments. In determining the monthly amount for the employee the court and/or attorneys often due an averaging calculation. Since bonuses, overtime, tips, etc. are normally not the same month-to-month it is better to take earning samples from approximately one year if not longer. In order to do this, the parties are required to provide tax returns, paycheck stubs and other documentation to show their earnings. The average of the numbers can then be used to determine the actual monthly income of a party.
An example is if Frank works on a salary of $50,000 per year and has bonuses each year that total $50,000. Then, Frank’s monthly income is actually based on $100,000 divided by 12 months.
3. When a party owns his/her own business, then business income to that party is based on sources like self-employment, partnerships, independent contracts, etc. For determining actual “business income” you must take the gross receipts and subtract out necessary and ordinary business expenses
For example, Frank has a business of his own and has contracts totaling $10,000 per month. Frank has business expenses for rent, marketing, etc. of $5,000 per month. Therefore, Frank is able to pay himself a monthly income of $5,000. Or, if Frank takes distributions, then the court may look at those to determine Frank’s income.
4. Disability benefits and social security benefits. These are considered income to the party since they are designed to support the party and his/her family.
5. All workers’ compensation benefits and settlements.
6. Monies gained from unemployment or reemployment benefits.
7. Pension, retirement, or annuity payments.
8. Alimony received from either this court action or another that has been court ordered.
9. Interest and dividends received from any and all accounts.
10. Rental income, this is based on the amount taken in for rent minus legitimate, ordinary expenses associated with the property.
11. Income from royalties, trusts, or estates.
12. Reimbursed expenses or in kind payments to the extent that they reduce living expenses.
13. Gains derived from dealings in property (such as selling properties and having an independent mortgage on said properties).
If you are going through a divorce involving children or a paternity case, then you should find out your rights an options by speaking with an experienced lawyer in your area.