September 18, 2012 ·
Q: What are “Child Support Guidelines” forFlorida residents? How do they work? Does it matter how much people make, whether or not both parents are working? I read in your recent column that judges may consider the wife as working, even if she does not. Is there a way for me to figure out what the guidelines would be, if I decided to get divorced?
A: Child support guidelines are the Florida Legislature’s instructions to the courts and Florida citizens regarding the amount two parents who are divorcing should contribute to the support of their children. The “Guidelines,” and instructions on applying them, are found in Florida Statute 61.30. The Guidelines, along with work sheets, are on the Internet, at many sites; type in the words, “Florida Child Support Guidelines.
To determine guideline support you must calculate, accurately, your income, and your spouse’s income, net of taxes, and mandatory payments, such as union dues. Often the parties disagree on the other’s true income. Voluntary contributions to pension plans are not deducted.
The word “income” in the statute includes all income, from all sources. Not only does it include “W-2” income as an employee, but income reported as “1099” income as an independent contractor, dividend income, interest income, and regular capital gains income.
The two net income numbers are added. Then, refer to the guidelines for a monthly support amount, which will be driven by the amount of your combined net income, and the number of children, born to you or adopted by you. There is no provision for support of un-adopted stepchildren.
Pro-rate the resulting gross child support number between you and your spouse. If you earn 80 percent of the total net income, you will be paying 80 percent of the support.
There are additional matters to consider, such as adjusting for the payment of the child’s health insurance. The cost of day care, for work purposes, must be calculated and divided proportionately.
Additional adjustments are required, depending on the number of overnights enjoyed by each of the two parents under your parenting plan.
Special costs are added for necessities, such as care for special needs children. Additions can accommodate the lifestyle of the parties if it includes private school, summer camp or other luxuries.
In addition, the courts can impute income to either parent who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Before imputation of income, a court must find proof of work skills, job availability and the absence of special needs of a child, which would require the parent’s full time attention.
Michael H. Gora has been certified by the Board of Education and Specialization of The Florida Bar as a specialist in family and matrimonial law, and is a partner with Shapiro Blasi Wasserman & Gora P.A. in Boca Raton. Mr. Gora may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.