Florida law requires Parenting Plans for all divorcing couples with children starting October 1, 2008. Florida law divides parenting issues into three categories: parental responsibility, time sharing and support. This article examines the support section of a parenting plan.
Both parents have a legal requirement to support their children, regardless of the parents’ marital status. Florida has a formula to calculate child support in Florida Statute 61.30. The calculation involves using the total of both parents’ net monthly incomes and the chart in Florida Statute 61.30, to find the “guideline amount" of child support. This is the amount the court will presume is correct. It is the total amount that will be apportioned between the parents based on their incomes.
Using the guidelines number, the percent each parent contributes toward the whole monthly amount is determined by dividing that parent's net monthly income into the total income for both parents. Each parent is then responsible for his or her percentage share of the total monthly child support amount. If one parent is paying more than his or her share, the difference is eliminated with a cash payment from the parent paying less than his/her share.
Once the guideline amount and appropriate percentages are calculated, you will need to consider some other items.
First, you must add 75% of the cost of child care due to employment. Effective October 1, 2008, the child care percentage increases to 100%. You must also add the cost of health insurance actually being paid for the child and any on-going monthly medical care costs not covered by insurance. This is all done on page 2 of the child support guideline worksheet.
Next, is the guideline amount appropriate for your child? You can go up or down 5% from the guideline amount without court approval. If you want to change the amount more than 5%, the court must approve the change based on specific reasons that are in your child's best interest.
The amount must be reduced if the child spends at least 3 nights per week with the other parent. The law has a formula for making that reduction. Recent changes to the law require child support be calculated according to the actual number of overnights the child has with each parent starting October 1, 2008. The new law specifically says that an order for 50/50 time sharing can include payment of child support.
Third, what events will end child support? The recent changes to the law added these termination-of-support events:
Child emancipation (turning 18, getting married or an order of emancipation)
Child joins the military
If you want these, or any other events, to automatically terminate child support, you must include a provision for that in your parenting plan. Otherwise, the paying parent must return to court to obtain a reduction order.
If you have more than one child, what happens to support payments when the older child turns 18? Will you recalculate the amount or reduce the payment by a certain amount automatically?
Also remember that if you have a child with special needs who will remain dependent past the age of 18, the court can order continuing support be paid after the age of 18. The same is true if your child is still in high school, but expected to graduate by age 19.
If your child will attend college, what happens to the child support payment? Will cash support payments continue during college or will the parent pay college costs in lieu of cash payment to the other parent. Is there an agreement for both parents to contribute to a pre-paid tuition account? What is included in college costs, if the parents agree to pay them?
Fourth, how will other child-related expenses be split? Will the parents share the costs according to their income percentages or split evenly? Who will provide the children's health insurance? How will the other parent be informed about these costs? How long will he or she have to pay his or her share? Will payment be waived if there is not timely notification? Is there any other agreement about costs contained in your parenting plan? For instance, if one parent has assumed all costs of religious school, does that parent receive any type of credit for paying those religious school costs?
Fifth, will there be an Income Deduction Order immediately? If not, under what situations will a delayed IDO become active? Because children and parents depend on child support, you may want a delayed order to become active if payments are more than 15 days late. Of course, you will have to return to court to activate the order unless there is language in the order itself that permits it to be sent to the other parent's employer “without further order of court. "
Finally, will the parent making the cash payment be required to have life insurance to secure his or her child support obligation? The court can require life insurance if the cost of the insurance is reasonable. Of course, the chances of becoming disabled are much higher than for death. While disability insurance is not something a court can order, if there is an existing policy that is reasonably-priced, think about a requirement to maintain that policy as long as child support is being paid.
While both parents are legally required to support their children, there are other expenses you should consider for the benefit of your children. Think about the future and the possible events that will occur in your family. Calculating the basic child support obligation is only one part of child support. Include all the provisions you need to support your children in your new Florida parenting plan.
For more information about Florida family law and to learn about a free Tele-Test Drive Basic Florida Law course, go to http://www.diydivorcefl.com
Pamela S. Wynn is a Florida family attorney with more than 23 years experience in Florida courts.