Florida has child support guidelines contained in numerical tables using the combined net income of the parents and the number of children they have. It sounds like you could punch in the numbers and it would spit out the amount of support the children need.
Of course, it’s not that simple. There are also subjective, unmeasurable factors that are important to the child support question because they are key to helping the court make support decisions tailored to the kids’ best interests. These additional considerations allow the court to take into account the unique needs of the children and family.
Begin with the child support guideline amount
Florida statute says that the legislature created the guidelines because every parent has a “fundamental obligation” to financially support their children. The scheduled amount that the guidelines provide represents the presumed entire amount of support the children need from their parents. It is also the total minimum level of child support needed.
Florida law requires the judge to first calculate the guideline amount. The guideline schedule considers a spousal combined monthly net income of $800 to $10,000 and one to five children. If the combined income is greater than $10,000, a formula determines the support amount, but the judge may not order an amount lower than $10,000.
The judge may designate a guideline amount that is “plus or minus” 5% of the scheduled amount from the tables if appropriate after weighing all relevant factors, including “the needs of the child or children, age, station in life, standard of living and the financial status and ability of each parent.” The court may order an amount more than 5% up or down if the guideline amount would be inappropriate or unjust and they document why in writing.
To the guideline amount, the court adds childcare costs, health insurance and the child’s uncovered medical expenses. Then, the judge applies a formula to calculate how the two parents should split the responsibility for the total minimum child support need, taking into account the relative sizes of their net monthly incomes.
More to come
In part 2, we will talk about how at this point in the process, the judge may adjust the award size or the parental shares of the child support award based on “deviation factors.”
We will also discuss a different approach when a child will spend a “substantial amount of time with either parent” as well as disputes that can arise when establishing parental gross and net income.