Generally, there are two ways child support may be established in Florida. The first method is by agreement of the parties. The second method is by Circuit Court or Administrative Order.
Unless the parties agree otherwise, the amount of child support owed in a particular case is determined pursuant to Section 61.30, Florida Statutes, on a case-by-case basis. Even when parents do agree on a child support amount to be paid, the Court is still provided the discretion to approve and adopt or void the parties’ agreement as the sum.
Know Your Rights
The two most important factors to consider when establishing child support are time-sharing (the average number of overnights a child spends with each parent on a yearly basis pursuant to a parenting plan) and the parties’ respective incomes. Note – time-sharing is only applicable as to overnights, not necessarily the hours each parent may spend with a child.
If one or both parties are voluntarily under-employed or un-employed, income may be imputed to the respective party for purposes of calculating child support. In doing so, the Court will look to the party’s recent work history, occupational qualifications, and the prevailing earning level that person would have in the local community. Often times a party will employ a Vocational Expert to testify on their behalf as to the opposing party’s earning capacity if that spouse is voluntarily un-employed or under-employed. A Court may refuse to impute income to a parent if the Court finds it is necessary that parent stay home with the child who is at issue in the pending action.
Your Attorney’s Obligation To You
Your attorney’s obligation is to be your staunchest representative and an officer of the Court. We will provide you with the most practical and straightforward advice available in assessing each client’s situations and goals.
Attorney Client Privilege
In Florida, the attorney-client privilege is codified in Section 90.502, Florida Statutes. This law states that, generally, communications between a client and their attorney are confidential. In other words, without a legal waiver or other specific exceptions, you and/or your attorney cannot be compelled to disclose communications made in performing our services.
Relationship Based On Trust
From the initial consult through the final hearing, it is of the utmost importance for attorneys and clients to be truthful with one another and for there to be trust between them. The pair are a team and trust is essential. We believe in being transparent with our clients and we cannot afford to be surprised at any time in a case because a client has failed to be transparent with us. If the idea should ever cross your mind and you question, Should I tell my attorney this? The answer should always be, Yes – we are available to then tell you if “this” may be an issue.
Your Attorney’s Role
An attorney may have several roles throughout a case, especially in family law. We may be your representative, your advocate, your advisor, an/or your counselor.
The following items are allowable deductions from your gross income a Court will permit a party to utilize when calculating child support:
(a) Federal, state, and local income tax deductions, adjusted for actual filing status and allowable dependents and income tax liabilities.
(b) Federal insurance contributions or self-employment tax.
(c) Mandatory union dues.
(d) Mandatory retirement payments.
(e) Health insurance payments, excluding payments for coverage of the minor child.
(f) Court-ordered support for other children which is actually paid.
(g) Spousal support paid pursuant to a court order from a previous marriage or the marriage before the court.
Following the application of the above deductions, the parties’ respective net incomes are combined to determine a child’s monthly “need” in dollar figures. This “need” has been statutorily established and can be found at Section 61.30(6), Florida Statutes. The referenced chart can determine the “need” for as few as one (1) child and as many as six (6) for a family that earns anywhere from $800.00 per month (combined net) to $10,000.00 per month (combined net).
Once the time-sharing schedule has been determined, the parties gross incomes disclosed, the applicable deductions applied, and a need figure established per the guidelines, the Court will determine each parties respective obligation as to that child’s need based upon the percentage of overnights the child spends with each parent and each parents respective percentage of contribution towards the combined net gross discussed above.
Lastly, each parent will then receive credit for daycare or aftercare costs actually expended on behalf of the minor child at issue and for healthcare insurance costs actually expended on behalf of the minor child.
Generally, child support is payable until a child attains the age of majority (eighteen (18)), until a child marries, dies, becomes self-supporting, or, in the event the child turns age eighteen (18) but is still in high school and it is reasonably expected that the child will graduate before age nineteen (19), then, child support may continue until the date of graduation or age nineteen (19), whichever shall occur first. Of course, child support may be a longer commitment if a Court were to determine an adult child was disabled or a dependent child pursuant to Section 743.07, Florida Statutes.
As you can see, the child support guidelines formula is fairly complex. Please give our office a call should you have any questions or concerns regarding the initial establishment of child support, modifications thereof, or enforcement of child support. As experts in child support and family law in Lakeland, FL, we are glad to assist you in any ways we can to ensure you’re either being paid your fair share or to ensure you’re not paying too much.