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What Is Considered Income for Child Support?
Whether two parents may never get married or end up getting a divorce, they have a fundamental obligation to support their children financially. The obligation to support your child does not depend on whether you are the custodial parent or the noncustodial parent. You must pay your share of the financial support for your child even if your child’s other parent has primary or sole custody.
Florida child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model.
The court uses the parent’s combined net income to estimate how much the parents would have spent on their children if the parents and children were all living in the same household. Then the court divides the total amount between each parent based on their incomes.
What Does the Court Consider Income to Calculate Child Support?
To calculate child support, the court begins by adding together the gross income of each parent. Gross income includes almost all types of earned and unearned income. Examples include:
- Hourly wages
- Overtime wages
- Self-employment and business income
- Spousal support
- Workers’ compensation income
- Interest and dividend income
- Pension and retirement benefits
- Rental property income
- Unemployment income
- Royalty income
- Disability benefits
- Income from trusts and estates
- Social Security income
- Structured payments from civil claims
The statute specifically states that income includes the sources listed in the statute, but it is not limited to those sources of income.
The courts have broad discretion when deciding if a specific type of income can be included as income for child support purposes. As a result, very few types of income are not included when calculating gross income for the child support guidelines.
The court combines the parents’ net incomes to calculate the total amount of child support for the family. Net income is calculated based on the gross income less any allowable deductions. Examples of allowable deductions include:
- Federal, state, and local income taxes
- Court-ordered spousal support from a previous marriage
- Required retirement plan deductions
- Medicare and Social Security payments
- Mandatory union dues
- Court-ordered child support for other children
- Health insurance premiums
Allowable deductions can decrease the amount of child support payments. A child support lawyer can help ensure that the income and deductions are calculated correctly so that you and your children’s interests are protected.
Florida Permits Judges to Impute Income to a Parent
In some cases, a parent may be unemployed or underemployed by choice. For example, a parent may quit their job while the court case is pending so they can claim they have no income to pay child support. Likewise, a parent might accept a demotion or reduce their hours to decrease their gross income.
Judges will not tolerate this behavior. If the court discovers that a parent is purposefully lowering their income to avoid paying child support, the court can impute income to that parent. The judge may use the parent’s education, skills, qualifications, earning levels, and past employment history to assign income to the parent.
Courts can also assign income based on the median annual income of a full-time worker based on Census data. This situation occurs when a parent refuses to provide adequate evidence of their income or refuses to appear at hearings.
There is an exception to the unemployment rule. If a parent must stay at home to care for a child who has a disabling condition or is very young, the court generally does not impute income to that parent.
What Happens if Circumstances Change?
The courts recognize that life events can cause changes in income. For example, a parent may go back to school to earn a degree. After graduating, the parent may obtain a job earning substantially more income than they did when the court issued the original child support order.
On the other hand, a parent may be injured in a car accident. As a result, they sustain a permanent impairment that decreases their earning potential. As a result, the parent can only earn about one-half of the income they did when the court issued the original child support order.
If a parent has a change in circumstances, they can petition the court to modify child support payments. Likewise, a parent can petition the court to modify child support payments if they discover the other parent is earning substantially more money.
Even though Florida uses guidelines for child support payments, errors can occur. Parents hide income or try to take deductions that are not allowed.
Child support payments can substantially impact your household finances. Representing yourself could negatively impact the outcome of your case. Seeking legal advice is the best way to protect yourself and your child.
Contact Our Divorce Law Firm in Orlando, FL
Contact the experienced Orlando divorce lawyers at McMichen, Cinami & Demps today for legal assistance. Contact our Orlando, FL office at (407) 898-2161 to schedule a free consultation.
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Orlando, FL 32803