Factors Florida Courts Consider When Determining Child Support

Child support in Florida is determined by considering several factors according to §61.30, Florida Statutes. Ultimately, the child support guidelines pursuant to this statutory provision will determine the amount of support paid, from whom it is paid, and what credits are to be assessed to either parent.  Enumerated below are the factors considered:

Factors Under the Florida Child Support Guidelines

The analysis must be based on the child support guidelines. Florida statutes set out particular information for consideration to determine support. These include:

  • The combined net monthly income of the parties
  • The number of children common to the parties
  • Any childcare costs paid directly by either party
  • Any monthly health insurance premiums paid by either party
  • Any medical expenses (healthcare, dental, prescriptions, etc.) for the child that are uncovered by insurance
  • The timesharing arrangement with the child for whom support is calculated (substantial amount of time means that a parent exercises time-sharing at least 20 percent of the overnights of the year).

Keep in mind that income includes virtually all sources of income, including disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, settlements, salaries or wages, commissions, allowances, tips, bonuses, overtime pay, annuity or retirement payments and more that are specifically addressed within the statute. Detailed substantiation of all financial information provided within the parties’ financial affidavits must be exchanged before a determination of support can be made at an evidentiary hearing.

Beyond the Child Support Guidelines: Other Factors to Consider

A Court cannot waive child support owed for the benefit of a child.  However, the Court may deviate from the child support guidelines under certain circumstances. To do so, the Court must include findings of fact to support any deviation that is more than 5% above or below what the child support guidelines require. Additional factors that the Court may consider include:

  1. The child’s mental or physical incapacity.

In most cases, child support is awarded until the child reaches the age of 18. However, there are circumstances where a child may need support beyond 18, particularly in situations where the child has mental or physical disabilities. Children who do not complete high school before the age of 18 may also be entitled to receive child support until they graduate or at age 19, whichever comes first.

  1. The voluntarily unemployment or underemployment of one or both of the parties.

Parents should not intentionally become unemployed or underemployed (making less money than they are capable of making) to influence the child support obligation due.  If a parent is engaging in this type of activity, the Court will take that into account when determining how much income to impute into the guidelines on his or her behalf.

  1. Modification of support.

A parent’s failure to regularly exercise the timesharing schedule set forth in the parenting plan, a court-ordered time-sharing schedule, or a timesharing arrangement exercised by agreement of the parties not caused by the other parent which resulted in the adjustment of the amount of child support shall be deemed a substantial change of circumstances for purposes of modifying the child support award. A modification is retroactive to the date the noncustodial parent first failed to regularly exercise the court-ordered or agreed timesharing schedule.  Moreover, a permanent increase or decrease in the incomes of the parties or expenses for the child, may be deemed a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification of support.

  1.  Retroactive support.

In an initial determination of child support, whether in a paternity action, dissolution of marriage action, or petition for support during the marriage, the court has discretion to award child support retroactive to the date when the parents did not reside together in the same household with the child, not to exceed a period of 24 months preceding the filing of the petition, regardless of whether that date precedes the filing of the petition. In determining the retroactive award, the Court shall consider the following: (a) the Court shall apply the guidelines schedule in effect at the time of the hearing subject to the obligor’s demonstration of his or her actual income, during the retroactive period. Failure of the obligor to so demonstrate shall result in the Court using the obligor’s income at the time of the hearing in computing child support for the retroactive period; (b) all actual payments made by a parent to the other parent or the child or third parties for the benefit of the child throughout the proposed retroactive period; and (c) the Court should consider an installment payment plan for the payment of retroactive child support.

If you require assistance in navigating through the factors under this statute, contact McKINNON LEGAL to perform the analysis and get you the best outcome for your family. Contact us for more information or to set up a consultation.