Child Support Guidelines – Calculating Fair and Equitable Payments For Child Support

A separation can have a great impact on children. During this difficult time, one parent often worries that they will be asked to pay too much child support while the other feels that they won’t receive enough. The truth is that child support was never meant to punish either parent and a fair amount of money should be paid so that the child’s basic needs are met. The Florida court system has a set of guidelines and a formula to determine how much child support should be awarded. This is known as an income shares model and is based upon the notion that both parents share the financial responsibility for supporting the child.

The first step in calculating child support is to figure out the total combined parental income. This includes the parents’ wages, social security benefits and veteran’s benefits but does not include income from unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, child support paid for other children or any type of alimony. The court then uses a percentage of this combined parental income to calculate the base amount of child support. For one child the percentage is 17%, for two it’s 25%, for three it’s 29% and for four or more it’s no less than 35%.

Mandatory add-on expenses are then added to the basic child support obligation and each parent is responsible for their proportional share of these expenses. The mandatory add-on expenses include the cost of health insurance for the child, unreimbursed medical expenses and the cost of day care costs while a parent is working or going to school.

Lastly, the court must consider whether there are any circumstances that should cause it to deviate from the guidelines and basic child support amount. This can be done if the judge believes that the guidelines are not equitable or if there is evidence of fraud or abuse in the calculation of the basic child support award.

In addition to this, each parent may request that the judge consider additional extraordinary expenses for which they are responsible. These are usually not reflected in the basic child support calculation and are typically items such as child care, tuition costs, special needs or spousal support payments.

The Miami child support guidelines are updated every four years and the 2021 version was recently published by the Probate & Family Court through a Task Force appointed by the Chief Justice. The task force reworked the existing child support formula at various income levels in a manner that did not decrease child support amounts significantly while avoiding “material changes”. A full discussion of the new guidelines is available here. A new worksheet is also being prepared by the court that will automatically calculate a basic child support order for both parties based on the new guidelines.

If you have questions about child support laws, contact an experienced Miami family and divorce law attorney. A lawyer can explain the guidelines and help you determine how they will affect your situation. An attorney can also assist with the filing of a petition for support and with enforcement actions if necessary. A lawyer can also review the circumstances of your case if you or your former partner has a change in circumstance. If the change is significant enough, a court can modify the statutory child support amount. For more information about this topic, please see our article about Child Support Laws: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents. To find a Miami child support attorney near you, please visit our directory of child support lawyers in Miami.