Understanding Child Support & How It Works in Florida

It is undeniably a stressful, complex, and challenging time when a marriage ends in divorce. If you have children, it gets even more complicated. Many questions arise, such as “How does child support work?” and “What happens if a parent doesn’t pay child support?”

Understanding child support and how it works in Florida can help reduce the complexities of the divorce process and give you critical information that you need during this life-changing time.

How Does Child Support Work in Florida – Top Questions

“How does child support work?” is one of the top questions parents have when they are divorcing, which is a pretty broad question that covers comprehensive aspects of family law in Florida. But other top questions are commonly raised, including dealing with the amount of child support, who will receive it, and how long it will have to be paid, among others.

Who Is Entitled to Child Support Payments?

Under the parameters of family law in Florida, the custodial parent is entitled to receive child support payment from the non-custodial parent. The custodial parent is the one with whom the child(ren) primarily resides.

How Does the Court Determine Child Support Payments?

The courts utilize an “income shares” model to determine child support payments, which means an estimation is completed to determine the amount of money that would have been spent on the children if they had stayed together.

This model, under the law, does provide for a small measure of flexibility. If appropriate, they give five percent (above or below the determined amount) in the particular family situation. Their main goal is to ensure that the amount will be sufficient to take care of the needs of the child(ren).

Child support often varies from one case to another, depending on the standard of living before the divorce and other key factors, which is why some individuals may pay more in child support for one child than another parent who is paying child support for two or more children.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

Financial affidavits will need to be completed first by each party. These will include income and expenses.

When determining gross income, there are several sources that can be utilized, including:

  • Salary, wages, bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, and tips
  • Business income, such as funds derived from owning your own business
  • Workers’ compensation benefits and settlements, unemployment compensation
  • Disability and social security benefits
  • Pension, retirement, or annuity payments
  • Rental income (minus ordinary and necessary expenses) and real estate deals
  • Interest and dividends; income from trusts, estates, or royalties
  • Spousal support (either preexisting or ordered during current proceedings)

Deductions from both individuals can include:

  • Federal, state, and local taxes; self-employment taxes
  • Mandatory union dues and retirement payments
  • Federal insurance contributions
  • Health insurance payments (except for children’s coverage)
  • Court-ordered child support for other children either individual may have
  • Spousal support (from a previous marriage or ordered during current proceedings)

The net income will be determined once the deductions are subtracted from the gross income, and then the net incomes of each party are combined. Child support can then be calculated utilizing the child support guidelines and worksheet.

There is a grid on the worksheet that assigns the amount of child support to the combined net income. Additional expenses are then divided, such as childcare, healthcare, and education expenses. These can be determined during the process of negotiations during the divorce.

What Happens if Parents Have Joint Custody?

It can make a difference in child support, depending on the circumstances. In Florida, the legal term utilized for “custody” is “timesharing.” If the parent assigned to pay child support takes care of the child(ren) at their home for at least 20% of the time, then the amount of child support may be reduced.

Additionally, if in the joint custody arrangement (timesharing), each person has the child(ren) 50% of the time, the amount of child support could be zero, which will depend on each parent’s net income. If the person who would typically pay child support makes much more money than the other, there would still be a certain amount of child support owed.

Can Child Support Payments Be Modified?

There is a possibility. However, there will need to be a “substantial and ongoing change in circumstance,” according to Florida law. The parent seeking the modification is responsible for proving this to get the modification.

What Happens If A Parent Lives Out-of-State?

It can get complicated, particularly if the one owing child support does not comply. There is a federal law, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), that child custody attorneys can utilize to take legal action against a parent that is out of the state.

What Happens If A Parent Does Not Pay Child Support?

Child Support Enforcement at the Department of Revenue in Florida is the organization that assists when an individual fails to comply with child support arrangements. The department has multiple ways to attempt to recover the funds, and it can be a time-consuming process. A family law attorney can act as your advocate.

When Do Child Support Payments End?

Typically, child support will end when the child(ren) reaches the age of 18. If the child(ren) has not graduated from high school yet, the support can continue until the child(ren) reaches 19. If they graduate after they reach 18 but not yet 19, the support stops when they graduate.

Is There Assistance In Collecting Late/Back Child Support?

The Child Support Enforcement at the Department of Revenue and family law attorneys can help to collect late/back child support.

Benefits of Hiring a Family Law Attorney

When you work with a family law attorney, you have a strong legal advocate on your behalf that has comprehensive knowledge of the complex processes of family law. Combined with the skills and experience of tough negotiators – and dealing with the courts and state agencies, a family law attorney can help you get the best outcome possible.

Whether you are in the middle of a difficult divorce or face issues with non-payment or late custody payments, a family law attorney is invaluable in child custody cases.