Going through a divorce is hard enough, but if a couple has children, a divorce may get even more difficult depending on how agreeable the parents can be.
When it comes to children, parents have to make big decisions regarding child custody – called time-sharing here in Florida – and then they have to see what the court decides about providing child support.
Parents are required to provide support for their children, but the amount of support a parent has to provide is different for every individual. Why is that? Well, every divorce and every couple is different. Our state tries to estimate how much money parents would spend on their child if they weren’t going to get a divorce. That amount is then divided between the two parents based on their income.
Under these rules, a parent with three kids who doesn’t have a very high income might pay less in child support than a parent with one kid who has a high income. It might not seem fair on paper, but the courts want to make sure the parent is able to actually pay their required child support.
What Factors Affect Child Support?
When a couple with children goes through a divorce, each parent will have to fill out financial affidavits that disclose both their income and expenses. If someone’s annual gross income is less than $50,000 per year, he or she will fill out Form 902(b). If their annual gross income is more than $50,000 per year, he or she will fill out Form 902(c).
Your gross income can include:
- Wages or salary
- Tips, bonuses, commissions, overtime, and allowances
- Business income
- Disability, social security, and workers’ compensation benefits
- Unemployment compensation or reemployment assistance
- Pension, retirement, or annuity payments
- Rental income or property gains
- Trust, estate, or royalty income
- Interest and dividends
- Spousal support
- Or anything that contributes to your income
Some parents may try to cheat the system by becoming unemployed or “underemployed” to reduce their child support payments. If this happens, the court may impute or assign income to a parent as if he or she is earning a full-time wage.
Once your gross income is determined, you will also be able to deduct certain costs and expenses to figure out your net income. Taxes, union dues, retirement payments, personal health insurance payments, and other child or spousal support payments can all be deducted.
After each parent has arrived at their monthly net income amount, the two numbers are added together for a combined total. Then, the court will look at the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet to figure out how much child support has to be paid based on income and the number of children from the marriage.
For example, if a couple has a combined monthly net income of $2,000 per month with two kids, the monthly child support payment will be $686. If they had one child, that amount would decrease to $442, and if they have three children, the amount would increase to $859. As the number of children increases, so do child support payments.
But what if one parent accounts for more of that total monthly income than the other?
The final part of the worksheet assigns a percentage to each spouse based on their individual income. To find the percentage, you would divide each spouse’s income by the total combined income. In the above example, let’s say the husband makes $800 and the wife makes $1200.
Husband’s amount: (800/2000) x 686 = $274
Wife’s amount: (1200/2000) x 686 = $412
Since the wife makes more money than the husband, she would be responsible for more of the child support payment.
Feel like you have unique circumstances? The best way to get answers about your specific situation is to sit down with a knowledgeable Florida family lawyer.