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Do I Have to Pay Child Support with 50/50 Custody?
Raising children after a divorce can be challenging for both parents. Even with joint custody, it is not always easy to make the arrangement function smoothly. There is also the financial side of being a parent. In Florida, both parents are legally obligated to support their child until the child becomes an adult. In the case of divorce, one parent is typically required to pay child support to the other parent.
In Florida, child support calculations are based on two factors. The first factor is the financial resources of each parent. This process considers each parent’s current assets and as well as how much each parent earns. The other factor is how much time the child spends with each parent.
Typically, the parent that the children spend less time with pays child support. This parent is referred to as the “non-custodial” parent. By contrast, the custodial parent has more time with the child and is considered to be providing direct financial support during this time.
However, in cases where custody is evenly split, the calculation is more straightforward. Instead, support is determined solely according to the first factor, the parent’s resources. Now, it is rare that no child support is ordered, but it is technically possible. This would occur in cases where the custody arrangement is split 50/50 and the parents have the same resources and income. Further, both parents would also need to be equally dividing expenses for things like health insurance and childcare.
Physical vs. Legal Child Custody
It is important to note that there are two types of custody recognized in Florida. The first type is known as “legal custody.” Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about raising the child. This would include deciding issues related to education, religion, and healthcare.
By contrast, “physical custody” refers to the time the child spends with each parent. Note that child support takes into account only physical custody. In other words, how the parents share legal custody would not be relevant to the child support calculation.
Note that in Florida, only overnights count in the calculation for child support. This means that visits with the child that only last during the day or into the evening would not be taken into account. Further, a child must spend at least 73 nights (or 20% of the year) with a parent in order for that parent to get credit for child support. If the child spends less than this amount of time with a parent, that parent receives no child support credit.
Overview of Florida Child Support Laws
Simply put, child support covers expenses related to raising the child. This would include money used to purchase clothing, provide housing, health insurance coverage, and fund education costs. The amount of child support a parent is required to pay is set by Florida law. Remember, child support is a child’s legal right and the obligation to pay cannot be waived.
Child support payments are made through the State of Florida Disbursement Unit. Parents do not pay each other directly. This is so that the state has a record of all transactions in the event that a parent needs to bring an enforcement action.
Also, keep in mind that child support orders do not necessarily need to be part of a divorce. Unmarried parents are still required to support their children. However, in these cases, there may be additional hurdles that a parent must address first, such as proving paternity.
Calculating Child Support
Florida uses what is known as the “income shares model” for determining support. This formula estimates how much money the parents would spend on the child(ren) if they were still together. This number is then divided between the parents according to their income and how custody is split. The difference becomes what a parent owes in child support.
In calculating each parent’s earnings, the formula takes into account nearly every form of income. This would include all wages, self-employment income, investment income, spousal support, and unemployment. Both parents’ income is then combined. This number corresponds to a support obligation amount in the statutory table, which represents the total child support amount.
The court will then take into consideration any additional expenses that each parent is covering. Examples would be things like extraordinary medical expenses, private education tuition, childcare, etc. The total child support amount is then split between the parents according to their income and assets.
Finally, the court will take into account the number of overnights the child spends with each parent. In cases of 50/50 custody, the parents are presumed to be paying equal expenses. The support obligation will then be adjusted to reflect this contribution.