Child Support Lawyers in Tampa
rechel & associates, p.a.
Child support in the State of Florida is calculated based upon the guidelines set out by the legislature in Florida Statute §61.30. The statute basically takes both parties’ gross monthly incomes, discounts the appropriate deductions, and calculates their total combined monthly net income. At that point, the net monthly income is put into a table (which is outlined in the statute). The table cross references the parties’ combined monthly net income with the total number of minor children relevant to the support proceeding, and comes up with a pre-assigned total monthly support obligation for the child(ren). From there, the Court will take into consideration the amount of money being paid by either party for the minor child(ren)’s daycare and health insurance and give credit to the parent paying those expenses.
Next, the Court will take into consideration what the parties’ timesharing schedule with the minor child(ren) is and enter a child support order based upon the number of overnights each parent has with the child(ren). Where a payor parent has less than 20% of the total overnights with the child out of the whole calendar year, the court will simply determine what each parent’s child support obligation will be on a pro-rated basis using their portion of the combined net monthly income – no specific credit for total overnights is made.
However, where payor parent has more than 20% of the total annual overnights with a child, he or she will be considered to have “substantial timesharing” with the minor child(ren). The child support calculation is then modified in such a way as to credit the payor parent with the extra amount of time he or she has with the child(ren) while still taking into consideration his or her percentage of the combined net monthly income.
The result is a number that each parent is responsible for as child support for the relevant minor child(ren). Although only one parent has to actually pay his or her portion of the support obligation, the other parent has a theoretical obligation to the minor child as well.
How the Court will Identify Income or Consider the Lack Thereof
In today’s economy, income is less than consistent for many people and unemployment, although diminishing, is still rampant, particularly in the Tampa Bay region. As a result, the issue of what is considered part of a parent’s income can be the focus of extensive litigation.
The statute starts by looking at both parents’ gross income, which as defined by the statute can be derived from a variety sources, including:
- Salary or wages
- Bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and the like
- Business income from sources such as self-employment, partnership, close corporations, and independent contracts
- Disability benefits
- All workers’ compensation benefits and settlements
- Unemployment compensation
- Pension, retirement, or annuity payments
- Social security benefits
- Spousal support received from a previous marriage or court ordered in your pending divorce
- Interest and dividends
- Rental income
- Income from royalties, trusts, or estates
- Reimbursed expenses or in kind payments to the extent that they reduce living expenses
- Gains derived from dealings in property, unless the gain is nonrecurring
Child Support from an Unemployed Parent
What if your spouse is currently unemployed or simply doesn’t have any identifiable income? Income can be imputed to an unemployed (or underemployment as the case may be) parent if his or her unemployment (or underemployment) is found by the judge to be voluntary on that parent’s part. However, there is an exception to this: where the judge finds a physical or mental incapacity in the parent, or other circumstances over which the parent has no control, the Judge may refuse to impute income to that parent.
One such circumstance that a judge may find as beyond the parent’s control could be that parent’s inability to find a job despite diligent search efforts. In order to prove that you have made diligent search efforts, a judge may look to see what physical or electronic records you have retained from your search, how many applications or resumes you have sent out, and what kind of jobs you have been searching for. It is also important to note that the Court may still refuse to impute income against a parent if it finds that it is necessary for that parent to stay home for the benefit of the minor child.
If the Court decides that the facts of your case support the imputation of income to you or the other parent, the Court will take one of two approaches to determining what the appropriate amount of imputed income should be:
- The court may base a number on the parent’s recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community; or
- If information concerning the parent’s income is unavailable, a parent fails to participate in a child support proceeding, or a parent fails to provide sufficient financial information, the parent at issue’s income will be automatically imputed at a level equivalent to the ”median income of year-round full-time workers as derived from current population reports or replacement reports published by the United States Bureau of the Census.”
(As a note to number 2 above, although there is much debate about what report this statute actually references, a good number to go by is $53,657.00, which is listed on the Census’ website as the median household income in the United States as of 2014).
Deviation from the Child Support Guidelines
As a general rule, the Courts in Florida will not deviate more than 5% from the guideline child support numbers. However, depending on the factors in your specific case, the statute allows for a few instances where an upward or downward deviation may be permitted at the discretion of the court:
- Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses.
- Independent income of the child, (but not supplemental security income).
- The payment of support for a party’s parent which has been regularly paid and for which there is a demonstrated need.
- Seasonal variations in one or both parents’ incomes or expenses.
- The age of the child, taking into account the greater needs of older children.
- Special needs, such as costs that may be associated with the disability of a child, that have traditionally been met within the family budget.
- Total available assets of both parents and the child.
- The impact of the Internal Revenue Service Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and dependency exemption and waiver of that exemption.
- An application of the child support guidelines schedule that requires a person to pay another person more than 55 percent of his or her gross income for a child support obligation for current support resulting from a single support order.
- The particular parenting plan, such as where the child spends a significant amount of time, but less than 20 percent of the overnights, with one parent, thereby reducing the financial expenditures incurred by the other parent; or the refusal of a parent to become involved in the activities of the child.
- Any other adjustment that is needed to achieve an equitable result which may include, but not be limited to, a reasonable and necessary existing expense or debt.
If you have a problem with child support, either receiving or paying, our experienced staff of divorce lawyers have the knowledge you can use to help set the problem straight. Contact Rechel & Associates, P.A. today to find out how we can help with child support in Tampa, Florida.