Calculating Child Support Under Florida Guidelines
One common denominator in most Florida divorces is child support. While it is necessary to work out an equitable compromise, it is also in the interest of the court, as well as the family involved, to do so quickly and fairly. If there are disputes, Florida courts are unafraid to help the spouses reach agreement or to impose one based on the legal criteria that must be met. There is a set formula in the relevant statutes that lays out how child support is meant to be calculated in most cases, though there are always exceptional circumstances.
Generally, Florida courts will grant child support as per the state’s guidelines, but any deviation of less than 5 percent from the guideline amount is considered acceptable without further elucidation. If a judge analyzes the relevant factors and decides that more than 5 percent deviation is acceptable, they must submit a written explanation as to why the adjustment is merited. This is meant as a record for use in any future proceedings.
Florida’s laws also clarify certain matters regarding post-decree modifications, which can be thorny at best. Generally, a parent may apply for a reduction in their child support payments (or, conversely, the custodial parent may apply to ask for an increase in the payments they receive) when there has been a ‘substantial change in circumstances,’ such as a job loss or remarriage. Florida’s law specifically sets out how much the financial picture must change before a modification request will be entertained. Sec. 61.30(1)(c) states that while post-decree modification of a child support order is possible, the change in income must be at least 15 percent or $50.00, whichever is greater.
One of the biggest causes of confusion for many filers is Florida’s standard of imputing income. Imputed income means assigning a different salary value to a parent than was reported by that parent, and it is done for a variety of reasons, all designed to ensure that the child benefits from all their parents’ opportunities. Still, many parents are confused when a court orders them to pay a higher amount of support than they otherwise might have done.
A court will generally impute income to a parent in one of two situations: (1) when there is evidence to support that errors have been made – for example, if an employer reports the wrong salary figure; or (2) when a court finds that a parent could be earning more but has chosen not to. The latter tends to most often occur in cases where a parent can be described as voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, which does happen. If a court decides to impute income to a parent, however, they must be able to show that it is warranted.
Contact A Child Support Attorney
It can be difficult to accurately predict the amount of child support the court will ask from you, especially if your work history is somewhat unsettled. When in doubt, consulting an experienced attorney is a good idea. The knowledgeable Hollywood child support attorneys at the firm of Steven A. Mason, P.A. can help shed light on what can be a confusing process. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.