What Does Child Support Pay For?

Child support is a sum of money paid by one spouse to another during the divorce and after the divorce is concluded until each child turns 18 and graduates from high school.  Child support is designed to cover a portion of the rent/mortgage payment, electricity, other utilities, food, and other regular living expenses for the children.  For this reason, child support in Florida follows the children.  The calculation for child support includes a calculation to include how many nights the children stay with each parent.  If the children spend a substantial percentage of time with the child support payor parent, instead of all of the support flowing into the recipient parent’s home, some will remain with the payor parent.

In Florida, the child support calculation takes into consideration many factors including, each parent’s gross income, alimony paid and received, health insurance premiums paid by each parent for themselves or the child, mandatory retirement contributions, and the timesharing schedule.  It sounds simple, but child support is a moving target.  Some families like to include other factors such as before and after care costs, and uncovered health-related expenses.

My spouse owns and works in a family business and tells me he/she is earning less income and says he/she cannot afford child support – what do I do?

Income is comprised of many different sources.  For example, income for purposes of calculating child support can come from salary or wages, bonuses, commissions, allowance, overtime, tips, business income from self-employment, disability benefits, workers compensation benefits and settlements, unemployment compensation, pension and/or retirement payments, annuity payments, social security benefits, alimony, interest and dividends, rental income, royalties, reimbursed expenses or in-kind expenses that reduce living expenses and gains from property dealings if recurring.

It is easy for an experienced attorney to review your spouse’s earning history, look at the business books and review deposits and checks into bank accounts to determine what the actual income is.  This is common – many child support payors worry that they will have to pay child support at an amount that is more than their disposable income.  Usually, after income is determined and child support is calculated, the mystery is gone, the fears have been addressed and child support becomes a non-issue.

My spouse quit her job and is no longer earning income to help support herself.  Does that mean I will have to pay all of the child support?

The State of Florida does not allow parents to voluntarily terminate their employment for purposes of obtaining more child support.  The public policy of the State of Florida is that both parents are required to support their children.  If a previously working parent elects to voluntarily terminate his or her employment, then income can be imputed to that person for purposes of calculating the child support obligation.  That means, the court can look at what he or she was earning at his or her prior employment and impute that amount of income to him or her, or it can consider the testimony and evidence presented by a vocational expert as to what that spouse’s earning capabilities are and impute that income to him or her.  If your spouse refuses to participate in the discovery process and fails to provide income information or file a financial affidavit in your matter, the court can impute the median family income for year-round full-time workers as published by the US Bureau of the Census.

I receive commissions and bonuses as a large component of my income.  Do I have to include that income for purposes of calculating child support?

Commissions and bonuses are considered income for purposes of calculating child support.  The easiest way to calculate income in this circumstance is to look at what was earned for the prior year.  All income received in the prior year will include all bonuses and commissions received.  The only way your bonus income can be exempted from the child support calculation is if your bonus income is not guaranteed and varying in a substantial amount from year to year or if some years you do not receive a bonus.  In that event, provisions can be made which will require you to pay a percentage of any bonus income received as child support, but not include it in your monthly base support amount.

What about medical expenses or extra-curricular activities?

Once the child support guideline is calculated, each parent will be assigned a pro-rata percentage based upon the guideline that will be each parent’s contribution towards uncovered medical expenses such as co-pays, deductibles or uncovered health-related expenses, and each parent’s contribution towards the costs of extra-curricular activities including uniforms and equipment.  Often times, instead of including daycare costs or insurance costs in the child support calculations, the family will elect to leave those out and pay them pro rata.  As those expenses change, the child support number no longer needs to be recalculated and if there is no longer an aftercare or daycare expense, the parents simply stop paying it.

When does child support end?

Child support ends when your child is 18 and graduates from high school, if your child is expected to graduate before turning 19.  If not, child support ends on your child’s 18th birthday.  Florida allows for child support to be paid after the 18th birthday because many children turn 18 while still in their senior year of high school and the parents are still paying for the expenses for that child as if he or she was under 18.

If you have more than 1 child, child support will reduce after the eldest has turned 18 and graduated from high school.  If you are divorcing, the reduction in child support will be calculated and included in your agreement, or if the court is determining child support, it will also include the reduction in child support after each child turns 18 and graduates from high school.

Do I have to keep receipts and show my spouse where the child support is spent?

Child support is designed to subsidize a portion of the children’s living expenses.  The State of Florida does not require the child support recipient to maintain an accounting of receipts to prove that every cent was spent on the children.  Because the child support is designed to pay for a portion of the utilities, a portion of the rent or mortgage payments, a portion of the groceries and other monthly costs, no accounting is necessary or required.  Your agreement or court order will enumerate what expenses each parent is responsible for over and above the child support guideline.

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