Money and finances in divorce and related cases are rarely, if ever, at the very top of a judge’s list of important issues, but child support calculations are important. For the most part, calculating child support is a simple as running the numbers through a formula set out by Florida law. Where child support calculations can be tricky is when there is a dispute over what numbers are to be used in the child support calculation. In general, child support is determined by taking each side’s gross income (monthly), then subtracting certain allowable deductions to reach the net monthly income. The net monthly income is then used to calculate child support based on the number of children and other factors.
Clearly, getting each party’s income correct is an important first step. Chapter 61 says income is “any form of payment to an individual, regardless of source, including, but not limited to: wages, salary, commissions and bonuses, compensation as an independent contractor, worker’s compensation, disability benefits, annuity and retirement benefits, pensions, dividends, interest, royalties, trusts, and any other payments, made by any person, private entity, federal or state government, or any unit of local government. United States Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits and reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation, as defined in chapter 443, are excluded from this definition of income except for purposes of establishing an amount of support.”
Recently, the Third District Court of Appeals, in the case of Schafstall v. Schafstall, affirmed a trial judge’s decision to include in kind payments as gross income. Specifically, the court included, as gross income for the Former Wife, $1300 that the Former Husband paid toward her mortgage and $250 her mother paid toward her phone bill each month. The Former Wife argued that neither should have been included in the trial court’s calculation. However, the appellate court pointed out that F.S. 61.30 mandates that reimbursed expenses or in kind payments be included if they reduce living expenses. Any payments that come from any person will typically be included as gross income. In the Schaftall, case the appellate court pointed out that the evidence the trial court considered was enough to support the decisions that were made regarding income used to calculate child support.
Perhaps the most important fact in calculating child support after the parties’ incomes have been determined is timesharing. The amount of time that the child or children spend with each parent can affect the child support amount, but there must be substantial timesharing taking place. Substantial in this regard means at least 20% of overnights being spent with the non-majority parent.
Factors such as the cost of health insurance and uncovered medical expenses come into play, as well. In circumstances where there are exceptional expenses associated with a child (for example, if there is a serious illness or specialized schooling of some sort) that makes expense for the child way more than what it normally takes to care for a child, these things can be considered by the court also. These exceptional expenses can be the basis for a deviation from the amount the guidelines formula sets out. Of course the cost of childcare, if any, will be included in the formula.
Child support is a simple concept that can sometimes become complicated. At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, we have experienced child support lawyers and divorce/family lawyers that can help. Call us today for a free consultation.