Parents in Florida are legally obligated to financially support their child, whether they are the custodial parent or the noncustodial parent. Noncustodial parents will provide support in the form of monetary payments, and the payment amount is determined based on both parents’ incomes. In today’s blog, we will discuss what types of income flows are considered to calculate child support.
Calculating Child Support Payments Based on the “Income Shares Model”
The state of Florida follows the “Income Shares Model” to calculate child support. According to this model, the court will estimate the amount parents would spend on their child if the family were still living in one household, and then they will divide the total amount between the parents based on their incomes. In some cases, the court may also factor in parenting time in addition to income to calculate child support.
What Is Considered Income for Child Support Payments?
The court will look at the parents’ combined net incomes to calculate child support. Net income is calculated by gross income minus any allowable deductions. Gross income encompasses most types of earned and unearned income, such as:
- self-employment income;
- spousal support (alimony);
- dividend or interest income;
- rental property income;
- workers’ compensation;
- unemployment insurance benefits;
- pension or retirement benefits.
Allowable deductions might include:
- federal, state, local income tax deductions;
- certain health insurance premiums;
- mandatory union dues;
- mandatory retirement payments;
- Social Security and Medicare payments;
- spousal support (alimony) payments;
- court-ordered child support payments.
What Happens if a Parent is Unemployed or Underemployed?
In some unfortunate cases, there might be a parent who thinks they can skirt the child support obligation by cutting off their streams of income. For instance, parents might quit their job or intentionally find a lower-paying job so they can avoid the income calculation for their child support obligation. However, Florida courts are acutely aware of this behavior and do not tolerate it.
If a court discovers that a parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, they may “impute” income to that parent. That is, they will assign an income value to the parent based on their recent work history, occupational qualifications, and earning levels in the community. (Note that an exception to unemployment is if the parent needs to stay home with the child because the child is very young or is disabled). The court will also impute income if the parent refuses to appear at a child support hearing or does not provide adequate information about their income and finances at the hearing. In the case that the court is unable to find adequate proof of the parent’s earning history or potential, the court will likely assign an income value equivalent to the median annual income of a full-time worker according to data from the US Census Bureau.
Modifying Child Support
It is possible for either parent to request a modification of a child support order if they have experienced a significant change in circumstances, such as circumstances affecting their income. Some examples of situations that warrant modification include one parent getting a higher paying job or losing their job. It is also possible to modify an order if a permanent change has been made to the parenting plan, in which case a parent may not need to pay as much direct child support if they are spending on the child as they spend time together anyway.
In any case, Florida courts generally won't consider a modification unless the difference between an existing award and the amount determined by a new analysis would be at least 15% or at least $50, whichever is greater. This is not a guarantee though, and every case is evaluated individually.
Child support is a serious matter in Florida, and both parents are required to meet their end of the bargain. If you have questions about what components of your income flow will be incorporated into the child support calculation, reach out to our firm for legal guidance today. We can take a look at your financial history and help you estimate your potential child support payment, as well as help you prepare for a child support hearing. Whether you intend to be the paying or the receiving parent, we will advocate for your and your child’s best interests.
Schedule an initial consultation with the Law Office of Russell S. Hershkowitz, L.L.C. to get started.