In part 1 of this post, we explained the basics of the Florida child support guidelines – what they are and how they work to set the minimum amount of child support parents need to provide. As we said, the scheduled child support amount is just the beginning.
The judge has opportunities to deviate from the guideline amount, which may allow a more reasonable award amount if it would be in the child’s best interests due to unique needs.
After the judge has determined the guideline support amount, they may adjust the award size or the parental shares of the child support award after considering “deviation factors”:
- Medical, educational, dental or psychological expenses that are “extraordinary”
- Child’s income, other than from SSI
- Alimony obligations
- Seasonal impact on income or expenses
- Child’s age, especially “greater needs of older children”
- Expenses associated with special needs like a child’s disability
- Each parents’ and the child’s assets
- Tax issues related to certain credits and the dependency exemption
- Child support obligation based on the guidelines requiring over 55% of a parent’s gross income paid to another person
- Time-sharing schedule directing significant time with one parent but less than one-fifth of the overnights
- Lack of a parent’s involvement with the child’s activities
- Any adjustment to create a fair result, including consideration of existing reasonable, necessary debt
Kids who spend substantial time with either or both parents
The child support statute applies a different, complex formula when a child will spend a “substantial amount of time with either parent,” defined as at least 20% of annual overnights. The calculation still begins with the scheduled amount but handles childcare and health insurance costs differently and determines any required child support payment from one parent to the other based on the child’s relative frequency of overnights with each.
From here, the judge may depart from the calculated amount based on the deviation factors or on other specific factors:
- Low income of obligee (parent receiving support) and their ability to provide “basic necessities of the home”
- Likelihood that a parent will not exercise time sharing
- Different schedules for different children in the family
Disputes over income can arise even before the judge gets to the guidelines
Another way the guideline approach to child support is not always cut and dried is in the determination of monthly parental gross and net income to plug into the schedule. The child support statute is very detailed in its explanation of what to include in gross income and what to deduct to reach net income. In addition, if a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the judge may impute income to that parent, unless incapacity or circumstances out of the parent’s control caused the employment situation.
Disputes may arise about many aspects of income and employment – or lack of employment – that the parties or the judge must settle before the guideline amount can be determined.
So, many aspects of the Florida child support calculation process go beyond plugging numbers into a schedule or formula.