When a divorce occurs and minor children are involved, child support is a very important matter that needs to be properly planned and configured. Under Florida law, both parents are required to contribute towards the support of their children. It is most important to think of what is necessary to ensure that the children will be safe, comfortable, and secure in the home(s) of both parents.
Usually, child support consists of a monthly monetary payment from one parent to the other, intended to assist the recipient with the essential living expenses of the children. The amount of this support is calculated by determining the after tax incomes of both parties, adding them together and then calculating each parent’s percentage. Statutory guidelines are used to determine the support level based upon the total family income. For example, if the support level is $1,000.00 per month, and one parent’s income is 70% of the total family income, then that parent would pay $700.00 (70% of 1000) per month in basic child support to the other parent. Adjustments are then made for health insurance for the children, as well as necessary day care or after school care.
Even though this “formula” for calculating child support exists, there is still plenty of room for “lawyering” and advocating for a divorce client.
For example, the judge may deviate from the amount of basic support by 5% for any reason and by a factor greater than 5% based upon written justification. Understand that higher income figures translate to higher child support. Sometimes the higher earning spouse will try to minimize his or her income in an illegitimate attempt to cause that parent’s child support obligation to be lower. Further, it is important to know what the definition of “income” is for child support purposes. For example, sometimes a parent has a benefit from his or her employer that does not appear as a dollar figure on a pay stub. Perhaps a company car is provided, car insurance, a gas allowance, a cell phone, meal reimbursements, and other benefits. These are considered “in-kind” benefits. The dollar value of these benefits may be able to be added to that parent’s income for child support purposes.
Sometimes parents are already separated during the divorce proceedings and are living with family or even a new boyfriend/girlfriend. To the extent the living expenses to that parent are reduced or “paid for” by someone else, the dollar figure of that payment may be considered “income” for child support purposes.
Mr. Criscuolo has represented hundreds of clients since 1981 and has litigated these, and related issues, hundreds of times. You should make sure you consult with an experienced family law attorney to fully understand all aspects of child support as it relates to your case.