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Florida Child Support Calculation - What is Considered Income?

Whether you are the spouse who will be receiving child support for your children in a divorce situation, or the spouse who will pay support, you may not be aware of what is considered income when the courts calculate child support amounts. In the state of Florida, when child custody is arranged in a divorce case (or a paternity case), it is required that child support is calculated. Florida Statute 61.30 establishes payment amounts based on the number of children involved and the income earned by both parents. Unless there are circumstances which require deviation, the court will normally order a child support payment outlined by the statute. Since these guidelines use income as one of the main determinants for a child support order, it is crucial that you understand what the court will use to determine your earned income.

Whose Income is the Amount of Child Support Based on, and What is Considered Income?

The income of both spouses is used in the guidelines for determining the amount of child support. Essentially, payments from almost any source is considered income for calculating child support. Some examples of income that will be included in determining the amount of child support to be paid include:

  • Employment income (including salary, overtime wages, tips, commissions, and bonuses)
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Disability benefits
  • Business income
  • Income received from trusts, estates, and royalties
  • Alimony
  • Social security
  • Pension and annuity payments
  • Net rental income

In the event the other party is unemployed, underemployed, or not making as much as you potentially could in an attempt to lower child support payments, the court may "impute" income. In other words, if you are intentionally not working at your true capacity, the court may calculate an appropriate salary for you as if you were working to determine the amount of support owed. However, this is only used when the reduction in hours or pay is at the discretion of the party. This is used to help the receiving party when the paying party tries to conceal their true income to pay less child support.

Deductions

As you can see, almost any income source can be considered and will be included when calculating child support. However, there are still several deductions that a party maty qualify for which would lower their child support payments. While this is not an exhaustive list, some examples of deductions include:

  • Federal, state, and local income tax deductions.
  • Retirement payments.
  • Health insurance payments, except for those concerning the minor child.
  • Any alimony payments ordered by the court

These deductions lower the total amount of income earned by a party that the court can use to determine their obligation of child support payment. This becomes especially important when the court calculates the net income of both parents, as discussed below.

Applying the Guidelines to Income

Once the court has calculated your total income, the judge will use this number to determine how much child support is owed based on the Child Support Guidelines from Florida Statute 61.30. Even though the guidelines seem like a rigid set of rules that the court must follow, they have some flexibility when determining the amount of child support in a case. The court automatically has the discretion to set the child support five percent above or below the amount in the guidelines. Any deviation from the guidelines greater than five percent must have a written finding to support why the different amount is warranted. For example, if a party’s child support obligation pursuant to the guidelines is $500, the court can automatically adjust the amount to $475 or $525 based on what they find is suitable for the given situation. In addition to the court’s discretion regarding the amount of support owed, these figures also automatically adjust based on how many children the couple shares. For example, if the parties have a net income of $2,000, the guidelines state $442 in support will be granted for one child, $686 for two children, $859 for three children, and so on.

Once the amount of support has been determined, the court will find how much each party will be responsible for. The paying parent will pay a portion of the amount found by the child support guidelines based on their percentage of the total net income. If the guideline determines $500 as the total amount needed for the child and both parties are earning an equal amount, each parent would be responsible for $250 each month; however, if the non-custodial party makes 60% of the party’s net income, they would pay 60% of the child support amount: $300.

No two cases are identical, which makes it crucial to have proper legal guidance when understanding your child support rights and responsibilities. If you have further questions about income considered in calculating child support or what other deductions you may be entitled to, contact the Orlando family law attorneys at Adams & Luka.

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