Florida Child Support Law
Attorney Howard Iken discusses Florida child support laws
Overview of Child Support
Child Support in Florida is a predictable, common, necessity in all cases where there are minor children. Some states require child support until kids are 21. But in Florida the end date is either 18 or 19 – depending on the high school graduation date. Florida has very extensive rules, statutes, and calculation tables for child support. There is an entire section of the Florida Dept. of Revenue devoted to the collection and enforcement of child support. And in most Florida counties, there are special judges that consider child support issues – known as Child Support Hearing Officers. Child support is pretty much the most predictable issue In family law, divorce, and paternity cases. If you have minor children, there will be child support.
Child support is fairly cut and dried but can have complicated and dangerous twists. This is one of the few areas of divorce and family law that intersect with criminal law. One hundred years ago, debtors prisons existed in America. Now they are outlawed. But prison is still a reality in child support collection issues. Case law for Florida child support provides for severe penalties for non-payment of your child support payments.
How Child Support is Calculated – An Overview
Many attorneys and individuals will tell you the calculation of child support is cut and dried. True, yet not quite true. There are many twists, turns, and strategic considerations in a support case. The basic method of determining support is to take each parent’s net income and compare them to the Guidelines Table contained in Florida chapter 61. One frequent misconception is that household expenses matter when calculating child support. In fact, the only thing that matters is your gross income – less a very short list of valid deductions. That list includes things such as taxes, personal health insurance, and other child support judgments.
The area where child support calculation gets tricky is the interaction with the number of overnights each parent has with their child. If either parent has the child (or children) more than 20% of the annual overnights, the child support calculation changes to an alternate formula. That alternate formula substantially reduces the total support. Also, each additional overnight over the initial 20% reduces child support by a calculated amount. That one fact cases a great deal of fighting between parents over the division of overnights with the children.
How Alimony Interacts With Child Support
Child support is calculated by the next income after taxes and alimony payments. That causes a great deal of interaction between child support and alimony. Another complication: alimony is tax deductible and child support is not. That causes great complication and offers great opportunities to anyone negotiating alimony and child support. The interaction is complex and requires fairly sophisticated software to analyze. Another twist of child support and alimony: in temporary alimony situations, a person may file to modify child support when alimony ends. Anyone crafting an agreement containing both child support and alimony must take care to anticipate possible future changes. An attorney can design language to anticipate and control future concerns.
Modification of Child Support
Child support is always modifiable and enforceable. The default rule in Florida is that a child support case can be opened for modification if the end result will be change of $50 or 15% (whichever is larger) in the previous support amount. The process to modify child support is fairly complex and is not a one-day activity. Enforcement of child support is a bit more simple and involves one short court hearing. Courts take child support obligation seriously and there are serious consequences for non-payment. If your income recently changed and you cannot afford to pay at the current level – it is absolutely urgent that you immediately file for modification. Any later changes become effective back to the date you filed your modification petition.
Common Questions and Answers About Child Support
I have very high personal expenses. Will this reduce my child support?
Probably not. There are very few valid deduction from income for a child support calculation.
Does my new spouse’s income count for a child support case or modification?
Technically the Florida statutes allow consideration of another person’s income. But that is rare in practical terms. Normally you do not need to worry about that issue.
Are child support payments tax deductible?
Not under current IRS rules. There is no tax deduction for child support. And the person receiving support does not need to claim it as income.
What if I cannot afford to live with the current amount of child support?
In rare situations you may petition the court for a Downward Deviation from Guidelines. But for the most part, the system is fairly callous toward this type of argument.
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Attorney Howard Iken
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