Florida courts determine child support amounts using the state’s child support guidelines. The law aims to balance the incomes of both parents with the needs of the entire family when determining a proper amount of child support. While Florida’s guidelines consider the incomes of each biological or adoptive parent, they do not consider the income of the child’s stepparents if the parents remarry.
Income Shares Model
Florida follows the income shares model of child support calculation rather than the percentage of income model, which only considers the noncustodial parent’s income, or the Melson formula, which attempts to ensure each parent’s basic needs are met. The income shares model is based on the concept that a child should receive the same portion of his parents’ income that he would have received if his parents had remained married. Thus, the guidelines consider the income of both parents as well as child-related costs, such as child care and health insurance.
Under Florida law, a parent’s gross income includes salaries and wages as well as other types of compensation. Common examples include bonuses, commissions, tips, disability benefits, business income, workers’ compensation benefits, spousal support from previous marriages, Social Security benefits, rental income and interest payments. For example, if one parent’s main source of income is money he receives as a sole proprietor of a business, that business’ income is factored into the child support calculations. The income is calculated as the gross receipts less ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce the income. Public assistance is not included in figuring a parent's gross income.
Unemployment and Underemployment
Parents who voluntarily become unemployed or underemployed may find themselves paying just as much child support as they would have owed if they were still fully employed. Florida law allows the court to impute income to such parents, thereby calculating child support as if the parent was still employed full time at the original skill level. This discourages parents from reducing their income simply to avoid paying additional child support. Courts do not impute income if the unemployment or underemployment was beyond the parent’s control, such as in cases of physical or mental incapacity.
New Spouse Income
It is common for parents to remarry after a divorce, but Florida law does not consider the new spouse's income to be relevant to the issue of child support. Even if the new spouse makes substantially more money than the child’s parents, the child support amounts typically remain the same. The child support calculation only considers the income of the child's parents, not a new stepparent. But, if the remarriage causes a parent’s employment to change, the child support amount may need to be recalculated according to Florida’s guidelines.
- National Conference of State Legislatures: Child Support Guideline Models by State
- Florida State Courts: Florida’s Child Support Benchbook 2012
- Florida State Courts: Instructions for Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(e)
- Wood, Atter and Wolf: Can My Spouse’s New Partner’s Income Be Used When Calculating Child Support in Florida?
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images