Divorce is messy enough, but when you have kids, there’s a ton of additional things you have to consider.
You will need to start thinking about who is going to be the custodial parent, what kind of time-sharing schedule you want, what details will be in your parental plan, and how much child support you’re potentially going to be responsible for every month.
When a married couple gets divorced, the non-custodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent. Being a custodial parent means that even if you have joint custody, you have a larger portion of time-sharing with your child, and the child lives with you a majority of the time.
Child support is generally mandated by the Florida courts, but there are very specific reasons why a parent might be able to legally avoid making child support payments. Let’s review the process for determining child support in Florida and then provide a few legally valid reasons for not paying child support.
Determining Child Support in Florida
In our state, child support is determined by an Income Shares Model. The courts will estimate how much it would cost to support your child if you and your spouse stayed married and didn’t get divorced. Then, this amount is divided between both parents based on your income.
Your gross income is calculated by a number of factors, including but not limited to:
- Salary or wages
- Bonuses, commissions, tips, overtime, etc.
- Business income from other sources
- Disability benefits
- Worker’s compensation benefits
- Unemployment or reemployment assistance
- Pension and retirement payments
- Social security benefits
Your net income is then calculated by subtracting certain deductions like taxes, union dues, health insurance payments, other child or spousal support, and so on from your gross income.
Once you have your net income amount, you can refer to the guidelines schedule in Florida Statute 61.30 to determine the amount of child support you will have to pay based on how many children you have.
Your income and the number of children you have are the only factors that are considered when determining the amount of child support you will be responsible for. So it’s quite possible that a parent of one child could end up paying more than a parent of two or three children since you’re solely going by income.
The child support guidelines provide a presumptive amount of child support you will have to pay. The court can then decide if you will pay that specific amount or an amount within a five percent range depending on your particular circumstances. If the court decides to deviate from this five percent range, the court will have to explain, in writing, their reasoning for this deviation.
Once an arrangement has been made, child support can only be modified if one of the parents demonstrates “a substantial and ongoing change in circumstance.” Examples of this type of change could include a change in income, expenses, or parenting time.
As you can see, Florida has a set process for determining and ordering child support. There are a few times, however, where you might not have to pay.
3 Ways You Can Legally Avoid Child Support
It is difficult to legally avoid paying child support, but it’s not impossible. Here are three ways you might be able to evade this responsibility.
Both parents agree not to have child support payments. There are a number of reasons why a custodial parent might not want to accept child support from the other parent. There are also a number of reasons why a non-custodial parent would expect not to make child support payments. If both parents can reach an agreement about not having to pay or accept child support, then the court will frequently follow this request.
Terminating your child support agreement. Once a child support agreement is in place, you can’t modify it unless there’s a significant change in circumstances. A court might order a termination of child support if you lose your job, if you go to prison, if the custodial parent dies, if there’s a major change in custody, or if the child is 18.
Giving up your parental rights. Florida Statute 39.806 details very specific grounds for terminating your parental rights. If your parental rights end, you will no longer have to pay child support. This can also happen if another adult adopts your child.
Child support is mandated in Florida, but if you don’t think you’ll be able to pay, contact an experienced Florida family lawyer who will listen to the facts of your case and determine the best way to proceed for everyone involved.