There are probably more myths and misconceptions out there about child support than there are about any other aspect of family law. It sometimes seems like everyone has a brother-in-law whose best friend has a dog walker living a life of luxury funded entirely by child support payments from a former spouse. Then there is the often-told story of the millionaire next-door neighbor who was so much smarter than everyone else that he somehow got divorced without having to pay a single dime of child support for any of his ten children. Chances are you’ve heard some variation of these tall tales before.
Unfortunately, this common misconception about the way the law works has contributed to a general sense of anxiety and combativeness that some people feel whenever the subject of child support comes up. One parent worries that he or she will end up paying too much. The other parent is convinced that he or she won’t receive enough. Each side digs in and gets ready for war.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The irony is that, for all of the drama surrounding it, child support is actually one of the easiest issues in any divorce or family law case to resolve.
Child support in Florida basically comes down to doing a bit of math. That is to say, each parent’s monthly child support obligation can be determined fairly quickly by using a statutory formula that incorporates a number of important factors – the number of children, the combined income of the parents, health insurance and childcare costs, etc.
Here’s how it works:
The parties’ monthly net incomes (gross income minus taxes, social security, Medicare, health insurance payments, mandatory union dues, mandatory retirement payments, court-ordered child support paid for other children, and court-ordered alimony) are added together to come up with a combined monthly net income. For example, if Parent A has a monthly net income of $6,000 and Parent B has a monthly net income of $4,000, then their combined monthly net income is $10,000.
The court then consults the statutory child support guidelines, which is essentially a chart that tells us the total amount of monthly support awarded based on the combined monthly net income and number of children. For example, if the parties’ combined monthly net income is $10,000 and they have one child, the total monthly child support awarded is $1,437. If the same parties have two children, the total monthly child support awarded is $2,228.
Once the total monthly amount of child support is established, the court assigns each parent a percentage of responsibility for the total amount based on each parent’s percentage share of the combined monthly net income. For example, Parent A has monthly net income of $6,000. That is 60% of the combined monthly net income of $10,000. So, Parent A will be responsible for 60% of the total monthly child support award. That means, for one child, Parent A will pay $862.20 per month to Parent B for child support.
That figure can then adjusted up or down based on the following factors: the amount of timesharing each parent has with the child; and the percentage of additional expenses, like childcare costs and health insurance, that each parent pays.
It’s sometimes a bit more complicated than that in practice, but those are the basics. You can view the same child support guidelines that will be used by the lawyers and judge in your case by clicking here.
There is no secret, no magic trick to avoid paying child support altogether. We advise our potential clients be extremely suspicious of anyone who tells them that there is.
Along those same lines, it is important to remember that child support is for the benefit of the child. In other words, it belongs to the child, not the parent who receives it. That means parents cannot make an agreement to limit child support or waive it altogether.
Since both parents have an obligation to provide support to their children, the real key is to make sure that everyone is open and honest about their financial circumstances. This is one of the areas where Broward County child support attorney Andrew Foster can help. We have experience doing the detailed work necessary to make sure that your income numbers don’t look higher than they really are (you don’t want to miss out on any allowable deductions), and that the other side is not hiding theirs. This can be especially important when one parent is self-employed or has income that is difficult to verify.
How Child Support is Paid
Court-ordered child support payments must be made on time. Consistently late payments can subject the paying party to sanctions including contempt of court.
The easiest way to make sure that child support payments are made and received on time is to make the payments through an Income Withholding Order. An Income Withholding Order (IWO) allows the paying parent’s employer to deduct child support from his or her wages and to send the total amount to the receiving party. This is the method that the courts in Florida prefer.
Alternatively, the court may order the paying party to mail his or her child support payments to the Florida State Disbursement Unit in Tallahassee. The Florida State Disbursement Unit records the payment and then disburses it to the receiving party. It’s important to make sure that payments made through the Florida State Disbursement Unit are sent early enough to ensure that the receiving party gets it on time.
If there is a good reason, and if the parties agree, the court may allow one parent to pay child support directly to the other parent.
Regardless of which method of payment is used, it is always the responsibility of the party who pays child support to make sure that payments are made and can be received on time.
Establishing child support is one of the most important things that the court will do in any divorce or family law case. But, if done properly, it can also be among the easiest issues to resolve. It is the duty of the parties and their lawyers to ensure that the information that goes into the child support calculation is both accurate and complete. Contact Broward County child support attorney Andrew Foster to schedule your initial consultation today.