Florida’s Child Support Statutes
Florida Statute 61.29 explains that each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child. Florida Statute 61.30 contains the guidelines and guidelines schedule. The guidelines encourage fair and efficient settlement of support issues between parents and minimizes the need for litigation. The guidelines schedule is based on the parent’s combined net income estimated to have been allocated to the child as if the parents and children were living in an intact household.
Calculating Child Support in Florida
Florida uses an “Income Shares Model” to determine child support. Courts will estimate the amount of money the parents would have spent on the child if they were still married. The amount is divided between the parents, based on their respective incomes.
Parents may have to provide financial affidavits detailing their gross income (income from all sources, including salary, wages, bonuses, benefits, interest, dividends, etc.) The court may impute income to a parent who is underemployed (not making reasonable efforts to maximize his or her income). Certain expenses, including taxes and child support payments to other children, among others, may be deducted to arrive at the parents’ net income.
The net income figures are added together, and the court consults the Child Support Guidelines to determine the total starting child support award. A percentage of the award is assigned to each spouse based on their respective net income figures. Each parent is also responsible for payment of other expenses, such as educational, child care, and healthcare expenses.
In most circumstances, the court must order the amount provided for in the guidelines. Courts may vary from the guidelines by up to 5% without justification. Any further variation requires a written finding that explains why the guideline amount is inappropriate.
Tax Consequences of Child Support in Florida
There are no tax consequences from child support. The parent who pays child support is not entitled to a tax deduction for payments made, and the parent receiving the payment does not have to pay income taxes on payments received.
Modifying Child Support in Florida
Either parent may request a review of a child support order once it has been entered. However, the order will not be modified unless either parent’s financial circumstances have changed by at least 15%, not less than $50. If it has been more than three years since the child support order was issued, reviewed or changed, the change in financial circumstances threshold is reduced to at least 10%, not less than $25.
Terminating Child Support in Florida
Child support terminates in Florida on the child’s 18th birthday, unless:
(1) the court finds it necessary to extend the support because of a mental or physical incapacity diagnosed before the child’s 18th birthday or
(2) the child turns 18 before graduating high school. In that case, support is extended until the child turns 19 or graduates, whichever happens first.