What are the Child Support Guidelines? How do they work?

In Florida, the amount of child support to be paid is determined by the Child Support Guidelines found in Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes.  In order to determine the proper amount of child support, you must first determine the net monthly income of each party after deducting the appropriate amounts for taxes and other allowable deductions. These other deductions include those for health insurance premiums (excluding payments for coverage for minor children), mandatory union dues, mandatory retirement contributions, court-ordered child support actually paid for other children, and alimony or spousal support payments. The child support guidelines then dictate an amount of support based upon the combined net incomes and number of children of the parties. This amount is then apportioned between the parties based upon their pro rata shares of the total combine net monthly income. In addition to this base amount, the parties are each responsible for their pro rata share of daycare and health insurance costs. Finally, these amounts may be adjusted to account for substantial or significant overnight timesharing with either parent.

Can we agree to less child support than the Guidelines require?

Typically, the court is bound by the amount of child support determined by the guidelines. The Court can, in its discretion, deviate up or down from the guidelines amount by up to five percent (5%).  Any deviation greater than 5% must be justified with written findings by the Court.  Although there are circumstances that may justify a reduction in support from the guidelines, the Court will not approve a lesser amount simply because it is agreed to by the parties.

Do I owe child support if the other parent and I share time equally with our child?

Even with an equal timesharing schedule, child support may still be owed by one parent to the other, depending upon the parties’ incomes and the other factors that are accounted for in the child support guidelines.

The other parent is not allowing me timesharing with our child. Do I still have to pay child support?

Yes. The obligations for child support and timesharing are wholly independent from each other.  One parent may not withhold timesharing from the other simply because the other parent is not paying support.  Likewise, a parent cannot withhold support because they are being denied the right to timesharing with the child.

Does child support automatically end when my child turns 18?

Florida statutes allow for child support to be extended through high school graduation if the child is, in fact, still dependent on the parents for support, is between the ages of 18 and 19, and is still in high school, performing in good faith with a reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19.  Florida statutes further provide that any child support order entered after October 1, 2010, shall provide for the child support to terminate upon the child’s 18th birthday (unless extended further).  For child support orders entered prior to October 1, 2010, support does not automatically terminate and requires the entry of a new court order to terminate support payments.

What can happen if I can’t pay my support?

Unless the Court orders otherwise, your support obligation continues to accrue even during the time that you are unable to pay support.  This is money that still must be paid to the other party at some point in the future.  If the Court finds that you truly were unable to pay the support due to circumstances beyond your control, the Court will determine the amount that you owe and may increase future support payments to cover the past-due amount.  If the Court finds that you had the ability to pay the support and simply chose not to, you can be held in contempt of court.  In addition to repayment of the past-due amount, you may face any one of a variety of sanctions including the payment of the other party’s attorney’s fees.

I owe a lot in unpaid child support. Can this be discharged in bankruptcy?

No. Unpaid child support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Does child support include payment for college expenses?

No.  A child support obligation does not require payment for college related expenses after age 18 (or 19 in some cases) unless you’ve agreed to do so as part of a written settlement agreement.  

Can I deduct child support payments from my taxes?

No.  Payments paid from one parent to the other for child support cannot be deducted from the payor’s income for tax purposes.

Craig E. Weissberg, P.A.
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