Who Has To Pay Child Support In Joint Custody?

Joint custody is a common parenting arrangement after a separation or divorce. But who has to pay child support in joint custody?

The financial situation of each parent plays the primary role in the judge’s decision-making regarding child support, but other factors are also considered.

If you are going through a separation or divorce with children involved, it is important to be knowledgeable about long-term financial obligations. This information will help you get prepared and understand what actions to take moving forward for yourself and your child.

Understanding Joint Custody

Parents share parental rights and the child’s living arrangements in joint custody, which is determined in a family law court. The details are listed in a parenting plan. A parenting plan can also be put in place legally if the parents can reach an agreement themselves—typically with the help of a family law attorney.

Common arrangements in joint custody parenting plans include:

  • Sharing decision-making about important issues such as education, health care, and religion.
  • Specified time the child will spend with each parent
  • Which parent the child will live with most of the time or 50/50 timesharing
  • Decisions on holidays, vacations, etc., with the child
  • Details on how the parents will communicate with each other regarding the child’s needs

Florida courts generally prefer joint custody unless there is evidence that sole custody should be granted. The laws are written in the best interests of the child.

So, who has to pay child support in joint custody?

Child Support in Joint Custody Scenarios

Child support is key financial assistance that helps cover the costs of food, clothing, education, childcare, healthcare, and more. Child support helps children grow and thrive.

Florida Statute 61.30 (6) contains the legal guidelines for child support in joint custody and other parental arrangements.

In a typical joint custody case, the parent who has more time with the children is awarded child support. The judge will follow the formula and guidelines to determine the appropriate amount based on the parent’s income and the needs of the child/children.

Child support must be paid until each child turns 18. However, payments may be extended past that age if the child has special needs or turns 18 before graduating high school.

Do You Have To Pay Child Support With 50/50 Custody?

In certain timesharing arrangements, each parent has equal time with the children. If this is your situation, you may wonder, “Do you have to pay child support with 50/50 custody?

It depends on the circumstances. In most 50/50 custody cases, one parent will pay the other parent a certain amount of child support.

The primary elements the judge will consider are each parent’s income and earning potential. Typically, the parent with the highest earnings will pay the other parent child support. Here are items that are considered income or earnings:

  • Wages and salaries – including bonuses, tips, overtime, commissions, profit-sharing, severance pay, and deferred compensation
  • Income from second jobs and contractual agreements
  • Investment and interest income – including dividends
  • Annuities, trusts, or estate income
  • Social Security and Veteran’s benefits
  • Workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits
  • Alimony/spousal support
  • Self-employment income

Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive. It is representative of the types of items that could be considered income when determining who pays child support.

Expenses will also be considered. For example, suppose the higher-earning parent pays for many child-related expenses, such as daycare, health insurance, and other related costs for the child. In that case, the judge may decide not to award child support in a 50/50 custody case.

The court will examine the case to determine the child’s best interests and rule as deemed fit and in accordance with Florida law.

Shared Custody vs Joint Custody: Child Support Implications

Shared and joint custody are terms that may sometimes be used interchangeably, but they have some legal differentiations and child support implications.

Shared custody emphasizes equal time, where parents work together to raise the child, making decisions together similarly as if they were still married. Shared custody works best when parents live in close proximity and can make important decisions without big arguments.

Joint custody centers on parental duties and legal custody, with physical custody arranged around work schedules, the child’s needs, and housing arrangements, where the parents of each household act as single parents. In a case of full joint custody, both parents would share the child’s decision-making responsibilities and physical control.

In both of these situations, it is still common for the parent with the higher income and earning potential to pay some amount of child support.

Factors Influencing Child Support Amounts in Joint Custody

When considering the answers to the question, “Who has to pay child support in joint custody?” it is important to know that multiple factors can influence child support amounts.

First, as mentioned above, income and earning potential are two of the most prominent factors in the judge’s decision-making process, but they are not the only ones.

Additional factors that affect child support amounts include:

  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable, safe, and secure home
  • The number of nights the child is with each parent
  • Childcare/daycare expenses
  • Healthcare expenses
  • Expenses related to special needs
  • Other expenses as deemed appropriate in your case

The judge will review all related factors before awarding child support in joint custody cases.

Modifying Child Support Payments in Joint Custody

person calculating child support payments on a calculator

If the court has ordered child support in a joint custody case, the Florida Department of Revenue legally owes and enforces this financial obligation.

Prior to July 2023, there were specific rules on modifications requiring a substantial, permanent, and involuntary change in circumstances to allow the modification of child support payments.

For example, a parent’s income may have significantly changed (decreased or increased) due to a life-changing injury or illness, or the parent may have received an employment layoff. On the other hand, the parent receiving the child support may have received a significant raise at work or a substantial income increase.

Since the new family law, CS/HB 1301, passed, the court sees 50/50 custody as in the child’s best interest. Regarding modifications to child custody and, in turn, potentially child support, no stipulation in the law says the change has to be unanticipated. For example, if a father lived far away for an extended period of time and decides to move back closer to the child, custody/timesharing/parental agreements can be modified under the law.

With this law being passed, more modifications to custody agreements are occurring, which can also affect child support in joint custody.

So, how do you modify child support payments in joint custody?

A common legal avenue for modifying a child support agreement is to file a petition with the court through an attorney. The court will thoroughly evaluate the petition to determine if it is in the child’s best interest and what changes in the agreement should be implemented.

According to the Florida Department of Revenue, a parent with a child support case can also ask the Child Support Program to review their support order to see if it should be changed. Note that the parent seeking to change a child support order must prove a change in circumstances.

Once the parent files a request, which is often performed with the help of a family law attorney, the Program will review the order. If it is determined that a substantial, permanent, and involuntary change in circumstances has occurred, or there is other ground for a legal change in the order, the modification is approved.

Common Misconceptions About Child Support in Joint Custody

Family law has many dynamics – often, there are misconceptions about child support in joint custody. Here is a list of common misconceptions and their corresponding clarifications:

  • There is no need for child support in joint custody. Courts order child support payments in most cases. Exceptions would only occur if there were equal parental incomes, distribution of expenses, and time spent with children.
  • The parents decide together on the amount of child support. Child support is determined by the courts and based on Florida statutes.
  • Only one parent is obliged to pay child support. Each parent is required to financially support the child, which could be in the form of expenses, such as paying for health insurance, daycare, school expenses, etc. Each case has its specifications.
  • Child support must only go directly to the child’s expenses. Child support can not only be used for daycare, healthcare, and related expenses; the money can also be used for things like utilities, rent, groceries, etc., that support the child’s well-being.

Navigating Child Support in Joint Custody

Family law cases are intricate, involving multiple legal parameters and decisions that affect the lives of parents and children for many years. In addition, these challenging times are often accompanied by charged emotions, making the legal journey even more complex and difficult. Navigating child support in joint custody cases takes experience and care to get the best outcome for parents and children.

Legal guidance is highly recommended when considering both parents’ rights and responsibilities and children’s well-being. Children need financial support until they reach adulthood, so it is of utmost importance to navigate child support agreements and the court system with proficiency when going through a joint custody case.

How Golden Key Law Group Family Law Firm Can Assist

Golden Key Law Group has the experience you need when dealing with a joint custody battle. With the new law, having an experienced attorney on your side is even more critical. Our child dependency lawyers work with parents like you every day and understand the intricacies of laws and legal processes involved with child support and joint custody.

We are strong advocates for parental rights and the best interests of children. The parent/child relationship should be protected and fought for throughout the duration of your case.

If you are facing a joint custody case, contact Golden Key Law Group today. As your personal legal advocate, we will guide you through Florida’s complex court system.

Seek professional legal advice and contact us today to set up a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.