How is child support determined?

54552140 – child support spelled in colorful letters on cash

Florida Statute §61.30 sets forth the specific calculation the courts use to calculate child support. Child support is based on a variety of different numbers. Often times parents think that they will not have to pay child support if they are exercising 50/50 timesharing with the other parent. That is rarely the case. Child support takes into consideration the net incomes of the parties; appropriate deductions; costs of daycare, insurance, and uncovered medical expenses; and the number of overnights each parent spends with the child.

STEP 1: Net Income – First, the net income of each parent is calculated using court-approved deductions from your gross income.

  • Gross income includes all the income that comes into your life. This could include anything from wages, business income, rental income, disability or unemployment compensation, social security, interest or dividend payments, and regular contributions from friends, family members, or roommates.
  • Deductions must be court approved. Some deductions from your paycheck are not included in your net income calculation. Allowable deductions include federal and FICA taxes, Medicare, union dues, mandatory retirement, insurance premiums paid for the parent, court-ordered child support for other children, and court-ordered alimony. Deductions cannot include voluntary retirement payments, health savings account contributions, or repayment of advances or retirement loans.
  • The court will calculate net income by subtracting your deductions from your gross income. This net income will be the basis of your child support.
  • Your net income and the other parent’s net income are added together to determine how much child support should be paid for your child.
  • You should also calculate your net income in comparison to the total net income.
    • For example, if you earn $2,000 per month, the other parent earns $1,000 per month, the total net income is $3,000 per month.
    • Your percentage is $2,000 divided by $3,000 = 0.67 or 67%
    • The other parent’s percentage is $1,000 divided by $3,000 = 0.33 or 33%

STEP 2: Child Support Amount – Second, once we have the total net income for both parents, Florida courts use a child support table to determine the amount of child support for the minor children.

  • For example, if the net income total of both parents is $7,500 and they have 2 children, the total child support is $1,945.00 per month.
  • For example, if the net income total of both parents is $3,000 and they have 1 child, the total child support is $644.00 per month.
  • You can find the child support table HERE.

STEP 3: Monthly costs – Third, we calculate the monthly costs of daycare/childcare, insurance premiums for the minor children, and uncovered medical expenses.  

  • Daycare/childcare – determine how much daycare/childcare costs are for your child(ren). This includes any before care, after care, holiday care, etc. for your child(ren). Make sure to calculate how much the payment is on a monthly basis.
    • If you pay $125 per week to the daycare, that calculates to $542.00 per month. Do not calculate $125 x 4 weeks in a month – some months have 5 weeks. The proper calculation is $125 x 52 weeks in a year divided by 12 months in a year for your monthly amount.
    • If you pay $240 every 2 weeks to the daycare, that calculates to $520.00 per month. Do not calculate $240 x 2 payments per month – some months have 5 weeks. The proper calculation is $240 x 26 biweekly payments in a year divided by 12 months in a year for your monthly amount.
  • Insurance premiums – determine how much the insurance is for the child(ren)’s portion only. Many insurers will have costs for the insured, insured + spouse, and insured + family. The child(ren)’s portion is the cost of insured + family minus the cost for the insured’s premium.  
    • *Remember, your portion for the insurance premium as the insured is taken out as a deduction in your calculation of net income.
    • If you are not the parent paying for insurance, you do not need to complete this calculation.
    • If the child(ren) are on Florida Kid’s Care or Medicaid, there will be no insurance cost for them. However, you may have uncovered medical costs (see below).
  • Uncovered medical/dental expenses – you should calculate all uncovered medical or dental expenses you have for the minor child(ren). This could include anything from doctor visit co-pays, costs of medication (both over the counter and prescription), band-aids, etc.
    • In order to obtain a good overall average, review how much you spent on these items over the last 6 months. This is because for the month your child(ren) is/are sick, there will be costs, but if you are calculating in a healthy month, this may be a lower amount.
    • Review all receipts, co-pays, etc. for the last 6 months and divide by 6 to get a monthly average.
  • You should now have monthly costs for daycare, insurance, and uncovered medical and dental expenses.

STEP 4: Overnight calculation – Fourth, we must determine if the parents meet what the court calls the “gross-up” standard. Does each parent exercise a substantial amount of time with the minor child(ren)? For purposes of “substantial” time, the court considers 78 overnights or more to be “substantial”. If one parent exercises substantial time and the other parent does not, the non-substantial timesharing parent will have an increased child support obligation. If both parents exercise substantial time, the child support calculation will take the number of overnights with the children into account.

  • For a parent who exercises every other weekend (Friday and Saturday overnights) and splits holidays, this may be close to substantial if you are also exercising Sunday overnights when there is no school on Mondays.
  • If you meet the gross-up/substantial amount of timesharing, your child support amount will drop drastically.
  • Calculate the amount of overnights you have with your child(ren).
    • For a parent who has timesharing every other weekend (Friday and Saturday overnights), this is 2 nights out of 14. This is 52 overnights per year. This is not substantial.
    • For a parent who has timesharing every other weekend and a mid-week timesharing overnight on the alternate week, this is 3 nights out of 14. This is 78 overnights per year. This is now substantial timesharing.
    • For a parent who has timesharing every other weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday overnights), plus a mid-week timesharing overnight on the alternate week, this is 4 nights out of 14. This is 104 overnights per year. This is substantial timesharing.
  • The percentage of overnights the child(ren) have with the other parent is factored into your child support payment amount.

STEP 5: Initial obligation calculation – This is where numbers become a little tricky. Math is also very few people’s strong suit.

  • Take the child support amount from Step 2 and multiply it by your percentage of net income to total income from Step 1.
  • Using our numbers from our example above:
    • Your initial obligation is = $644.00 child support amount multiplied by 67% = $431.48.
    • This means the other parent’s initial obligation calculation is = $644.00 child support amount multiplied by 33% = $212.52.

These initial obligation calculations will then be adjusted to take into consideration monthly costs of the child(ren) and gives credit to the parent who actually pays these amounts.

If one parent does not meet the substantial timesharing gross-up threshold, their calculation is complete and they owe the amount listed in the child support calculations.

You can find a worksheet to complete these calculations HERE.

However, if both parents meet the substantial timesharing gross-up threshold, the court will then adjust the initial obligation calculations further to take into consideration the number of overnights each parent exercises in comparison to the other parent.

Deviation from guidelines – In some cases, the courts may deviate from the child support guidelines amount and obligation calculations. In order to deviate from the child support guidelines, a court must review specific factors. These factors include:

  • Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses.
  • Independent income of the child.
  • Seasonal variations in one or both parents’ incomes or expenses.
  • The age of the child, taking into account the greater needs of older children.
  • Special needs, such as costs that may be associated with the disability of a child.
  • Total available assets of each parent and the child.
  • The impact of the Internal Revenue Service Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and dependency exemption and waiver of that exemption.
  • The child spends a significant amount of time, but less than 20 percent of the overnights, with one parent, thereby reducing the financial expenditures incurred by the other parent; or the refusal of a parent to become involved in the activities of the child.
  • Any other adjustment that is needed to achieve an equitable result

Any parent considering collecting child support, any parent who is obligated to pay child support, any parent wishing to confirm they are receiving the correct amount of child support, should consider meeting with an experienced family law attorney who can discuss the specific amounts and the factors as they relate to your specific case and financial situation.

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