What Factors are Considered When Determining Child Support?
In Florida, parents are obligated to financially support their children. This is true regardless of whether a child’s parents are married or even still in a relationship, which is why child support plays such an important role in divorce proceedings. Judges take a number of factors into account when making child support determinations, but are also required to use specific guidelines, including the income shares model, during their assessments. This in turn, requires that the parties submit a wide range of financial documentation that will provide the judge with an accurate snapshot of their financial situations. Failing to supply this information can result in an unfair child support award, so if you and a former partner have a disagreement about your child’s financial support, it is important to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale child support lawyer who can help protect your interests.
Income Shares Model
Florida, like the majority of states, uses the Income Shares Model when determining an appropriate amount of child support. This model is based on the idea that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income regardless of whether his or her parents actually live in the same home. This is based on the understanding that if a child were part of an intact household, the income of both parents would usually be pooled and spent on the family’s benefit.
When implementing the Income Shares Model, courts attempt to estimate the amount of money that two parents would normally spend on their child if they were living in one household and then divide that amount between the parties based on their respective income levels and where they fall on the state’s Child Support Guidelines.
Gross Income and Expenses
The Income Shares Model is only effective if both parents provide the court with accurate information regarding their finances. This includes filing financial affidavits and exchanging information with the other parent. The financial documentation will then be used to verify each parent’s income and expenses. Besides expenses, courts will also assess the combined net incomes of both parents, which includes accounting for the parties’ gross incomes and then subtracting allowable deductions. Typically, gross income includes wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and dividend and interest payments, as well as retirement benefits and workers’ comp payments. Applicable deductions could include everything from federal income taxes and health insurance premiums to alimony and child support payments for children from other relationships.
Custody and Visitation
Judges don’t have a lot of discretion when it comes to making child support determinations, but must generally abide by the state’s guidelines. Courts are directed, however, to take a few specific factors into account when issuing a child support award, including:
- The number of children being supported;
- The annual number of overnights spent with each parent;
- Whether the parent provides healthcare insurance or covers the cost of other childcare-related expenses;
- Whether the child has special needs; and
- Each parent’s ability to pay.
In fact, judges are only allowed to vary from the state’s model by five percent and only under certain circumstances.
Florida Child Support Attorney
Child support calculations are complex and also have a significant impact on the finances of both the payor and the recipient, so it is important for parents to be aware of their legal rights and obligations. Please call experienced Fort Lauderdale child support lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 to learn more.