Child support payments are monthly payments that are generally court-ordered when a child’s parents are no longer living together. The court will resolve the amount of child support that needs to be paid and can legally enforce the child support order if one of the parents breaks it.

The court will set the amount based on a state formula and certain circumstantial factors that they will consider. These include the paying parent’s income or if the child has special needs.
When a paying parent’s ability to pay is affected, they may be able to request to have the child support order modified. However, it is important to note that the court may not always grant their request.

What Are Alimony Payments?

Alimony payments, also known as spousal support, are monetary payments made by one spouse to the other when the couple has entered into a legal separation or is divorced. Unlike child support payments, alimony payments are not set according to a state formula.

Rather, a court will order the amount of alimony support based on several factors, such as the ability of the paying spouse to make payments, the financial background of both parties, and the type of alimony (e.g., temporary alimony or rehabilitative alimony) that is appropriate for the spouses’ situation.

Spousal support orders can be changed or terminated by an order from the court. However, whether or not the alimony payments can be adjusted will depend on the facts surrounding the matter.

Calculating Child Support in Florida

Every child under the age of 18 in Florida is entitled to continued financial support from both parents. Occasionally, parents who split up can continue to meet their child’s financial needs together (known as child support).

But when one parent does not consistently deliver that help, the other parent can file for child support by applying through the Florida Department of Revenue’s Office of Child Support Enforcement. Applications can be made in person at your nearest office, or you may call to have an application mailed to your address.

How Do I Calculate My Child Support Obligation in Florida?

Florida, like many states, uses an income shares model in deciding the amount of child support owed. An income shares model starts the calculation by specifying each parent’s net income and adding the two incomes together.

This amount should, or at least attempts to, reflect what the parents would have spent on child support if they stayed together under the same roof. The total net income of both parents is then split based on the proportion of each parent’s income contribution to resolving how much each parent owes per month.

In a divorce proceeding or an active child support petition, the court may direct each parent to submit a financial affidavit so that the court can resolve each parent’s duty to pay. Another aspect the court may use to determine the amount of child support due is whether custody or time spent with the child is similar for each parent as in a shared custody plan or if the child mostly resides with one parent.

What Expenses Can I Deduct to Determine My Net Income for Child Support in Florida?

Net income is the income you have after qualifying deductions. For child support, a parent can usually deduct the following costs from their total or gross income to reach their net income:

  • Federal income tax;
  • State income tax;
    • Florida does not have a state income tax. Still, parents who reside outside Florida but have a minor child living in Florida may deduct their state income taxes elsewhere if they reside outside of Florida.
  • Social security withholdings or payments;
  • Mandatory retirement contributions;
  • Health insurance premiums for yourself and all dependents;
  • Prior or other court-ordered child and spousal support obligations that were actually paid; and
  • Other expenditures required to generate income.

Is There a Calculator That Can Help Me Estimate My Child Support Obligation in Florida?

Yes. The Florida Office of Child Support Enforcement provides an online calculator that parents can use to calculate their future child support order. This calculator is set up to evaluate basic child expenses.

Nevertheless, if your child or family has unusual circumstances, other factors may increase or reduce your child support obligation than what the calculator determined.

Can a Child Support Order Be Changed?

The court can modify child support orders. However, once a court orders child support, it is essential to continue to make all payments on time until a judge orders the modification.

Failing to do so can result in wage garnishment and bank levies against the parent who could not comply. Also, the child support owed will continue to accrue, and the parent may have to pay that balance and their ongoing child support payments.

However, even if it has been several years, a person’s situation must have changed “substantially and continuously” to qualify for a modification. “Substantially and continuously” changed circumstances can include:

  • Loss of job;
  • Extra health insurance payments;
  • Unexpected educational expenses;
  • If the other parent begins to make more money;
  • Increased daycare costs or travel costs;
  • A decrease in the amount of time spent with the child; or
  • When someone’s income has been reduced, it “deviates substantially” (more than 20% in some states) from child support guidelines.

If any of these changed circumstances arise, the individual will need to argue them in a hearing held at their local state family court. Otherwise, the individual responsible for support payments may lose the opportunity to have the payments reduced or terminated.

A person can also modify their child support or alimony support payments by entering into a mutual agreement with their former spouse. Any agreement should be in writing and signed by both parties (e.g., the spouses or parents).

If the parties reach a mutual agreement to modify, then a court hearing is unnecessary, but both parties must file an uncontested motion to modify the relevant family support payments.

How Can I Change My Child Support Calculation in Florida?

If you cannot pay the current amount of child support owed or believe it should be decreased, you can file a modification motion. Modifications are permitted when there has been a substantial change in circumstances for either parent or the child’s needs.

Why Is it So Difficult to Modify My Family Support Payments?

When a person has a child, they are legally accountable for the safety and well-being of that child. This legal duty includes the obligation to provide financial support for the child until they reach the age of majority, which is usually when the child turns 18.

Due to this legal duty, child support payments cannot be discharged under certain circumstances, such as bankruptcy. For instance, if a parent is trying to stop or reduce child support payments because they have filed for bankruptcy, the court will not consider the bankruptcy situation. The parent will still be responsible for child support payments.

Furthermore, child support payments overdue or alimony payments previously ordered by the court cannot be lowered or adjusted.

Failing to make family-related support payments can result in the attachment of the person’s wages (i.e., garnishment of wages), loss of their driver’s license, having liens placed on that person’s property, and they can even be held for punishment for being in contempt of court.

Should I Consult a Lawyer About Calculating My Child Support in Florida?

A Florida child support lawyer can help determine your exact child support obligation. They can also describe what factors are most important in your local court. Having a lawyer represent you in a child support matter can help secure a fair child support order.

If you are considering filing a modification to your current child support order, a lawyer may be able to help you determine whether your circumstances meet a substantial change.