A common misconception regarding child support in Florida is that the parties can choose their own figure for what one party will pay the other. Actually, child support in Florida is determined through the use of a statutory formula. Fundamentally it involves the number of children involved, and the calculation of each parties’ net income, coupled with the amount of time each parent is going to spend with the children (it can be difficult to calculate the net income of a self employed individual, especially if meaningful, trustworthy financial records aren’t available. Sometimes the only way to prove the income of a party is to show how much they have been spending). It should also be noted that the Florida child support statute lists the items that can be deducted from gross income to arrive at a net income figure. Income tax and social security and health insurance expenses for example can be deducted from the gross. In any event, the total number of overnight visitations is the basis for determining how much time each party spends with the children. On a theoretical basis, if each party spends 50% of the time with the children, and they each earn the same amount of net income, there will not be any child support owed (although if one party pays for the kids’ health insurance and daycare for example, the other party would owe child support).
Once net income and the number of overnights for each parent is determined, the statutory schedule will determine how much child support is owed by a particular parent. The statutory formula also provides that daycare expense and health insurance premiums be added to the basic statutory child support amount. So each party will contribute a portion of those expenses even though one party may be actually paying the bill. Sometimes we think of only one party being responsible for child support because only one party writes a check. But in reality the statutory formula assigns an amount to each parent although it is only one party who writes a check. (the other party must pay for the expenses of the child with their own money and with the child support that they receive.
It should also be noted that the income percentage ratio for the parents is also used to calculate for example how much each will contribute toward extracurricular activity expenses. So if one parent makes 60% of the total income for the parents, that parent would pay 60% of the extracurricular activity expenses (unless agreed otherwise).
Parties with children are required to complete a parenting plan. The plan will include an opportunity for the parents to list how visitation (now called “timesharing”) will be allocated between them. So for example the parties may choose that one party will have the children every other weekend, 10 weeks in the summer and during school breaks and on certain holidays. A count will then have to be done to determine the number of overnights for that parent. There is sophisticated calendar software that a party or Florida lawyer can use to quickly calculate the number of overnights once the schedule is set.