Child Support Basics
Receiving enough money to support the needs of one’s child is a critical issue for any single parent. The cost of raising children rises annually, and most parents cannot afford to bear this burden alone. Further, the law requires both legally-recognized parents to share the financial obligation to support a child to adulthood. However, divorced and separated parents rarely agree on how much that support should be, nor what it should be earmarked to cover. In a drawn out paternity and child support dispute between MLB star Miguel Cabrera and his former mistress and mother of two children, a court recently found he was obligated to pay her $12,000 per month for the children’s support, an amount significantly less than requested. The formula for calculating child support requires a close analysis of a parent’s income and monthly obligations versus the number of children to arrive at the appropriate result, and routinely encompasses expenses beyond a child’s basic needs. A discussion of the costs the obligated parent may be required to cover, and how courts arrive at the monthly payment amount, will follow below.
What Child Support Includes
Both parents are expected and legally required to financially support their minor child until adulthood. How support is apportioned between parents depends upon income, other financial obligations, and a few additional factors, but the primary caregiver is typically the one who receives the payments. All parents know that the expenses of raising a child extend far beyond the basic necessities of food, shelter, and clothing. Basic needs are obviously the bulk of what child support is intended to cover, but three other expenses are commonly factored in as well: health insurance (essentially a requirement in most cases), childcare, and extracurricular activities.
Health insurance must be included in the child support calculation as long as the coverage is available and the cost reasonable. The cost is presumed reasonable if the cost of adding the child to one’s insurance policy does not exceed five percent of the parent’s gross income. Further, health insurance is considered available if coverage is accessible in the county in which the child primarily lives or the other parent agrees to a different county, or if custody is shared, the counties in which either parent resides. If the parent with most of the parenting time cannot afford, or does not have access to, health coverage, the other parent will need to provide it. Additionally, the obligated parent may be required to cover a portion of extraordinary medical costs, even if it deviates from the State child support guidelines, if sufficient financial resources are available.
Childcare costs related to looking for employment, education to increase job prospects, or to support current employment is another cost commonly added to the support obligation, though this expense presumably will go away when the child gets older. Finally, if the obligated parent can afford it, extracurricular activities and educational expenses are also regularly included in the child support obligation.
Calculating the Monthly Amount
Florida has a formula courts apply to determine the appropriate amount of child support based on upon each parents’ net income, the number of children, the number of overnights allotted to each parent, and certain expenses (health insurance, taxes, child support for other children and daycare costs, among others), which may be deducted to reduce final amount. The goal is to give the child the same standard of living that existed before the divorce or separation. Parents who are voluntary under- or unemployed will have income imputed to them to avoid relieving them of the obligation to provide support for a choice they made. Finally, courts may deviate from the child support guidelines by five percent above or below the prescribed amount if circumstances warrant it.
Get Legal Advice
Child support is a central component of any shared custody arrangement, and if you have questions or concerns about this issue, talk with the skilled and dedicated attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. Our Fort Lauderdale law firm understands how integral and volatile child support issues can be, and will work to get you the outcome that is both fair and best supports your child. Contact us for a free consultation.