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The Magnificent Seven Child Support Deviation Factors in Florida


In most cases, Florida’s complex child support guidelines conclusively set the amount of child support payments. The key variable is usually the net income of each parent. Net income for child support purposes often differs from the net income amount on a paystub. Only certain payroll deductions are allowable under Florida law.

Since the Sunshine State is an income share state, a number of other variables, such as the parenting time division, also come into play. This complexity helps ensure that children have the same standard of living they would have had if their parents were still married.

However, the guideline amount is not always 100 percent appropriate. The judge can deviate from the guideline amount, either up or down, if there is evidence of any of the following factors. A Clearwater family law attorney can use these factors to protect a parent’s legal and financial rights in a divorce case.

Child’s Income

Most children do not have enough income to affect the standard amount, which is why the guidelines do not include this variable. But some children receive Social Security Disability or other government assistance payments. A few other children have modeling or other jobs. In both these situations, the money often legally belongs to the residential parent. So, the child support obligation might need adjustment.

Extraordinary Psychological, Medical, Dental, or Educational Expenses

Not all expenses qualify under this category. Braces are expensive, but they are certainly not an extraordinary expense. The child’s needs, as opposed to the parent’s needs or the child’s preferences, might be an issue as well. A child might prefer invisible braces which rarely require adjustment, but less-expensive braces might meet the child’s needs.

Seasonal Parental Income Variations

Frequently, timing matters. Retail or hospitality businesses are a good example. Commonly, these businesses earn most of their income during the year’s fourth quarter. The other nine months of the year are often not very profitable. Once again, the guidelines do not take these variations into account. Therefore, a separate court order might be necessary to ensure all parents pay their fair shares at all times.

Child’s Age

Most parents would agree that older children are more expensive to care for than younger children, especially once the daycare days are over. The guidelines usually account for added expenses of younger children, but they do not take into account increased expenses when children age. Theoretically, obligors overpay slightly during the less expensive years, so obligees build a reserve. But if the children were already older at the time of divorce, that’s obviously not possible.

Special Needs Expenses

This category is similar to the one discussed above. But there are some differences. For example, the aforementioned added expenses usually apply to upcoming items. The special needs category, however, usually applies to disability-related costs which were usually included in the family budget. If the guideline amount is too low to account for these traditional costs, the amount might need to be increased.

Tax Credits

Generally, the residential parent receives the entire Dependent Care Tax Credit, as well as other child-related tax breaks, like the Earned Income Credit. In many cases, these credits could be thousands of dollars. Come April, these credits could create a substantial financial imbalance. If the obligor is current on support payments, judges frequently order the parents to divide these tax windfalls proportionally.

Total Family Assets

This category is related to the child’s income category. Not all assets and income show up in Excel spreadsheets. Military divorces are a good illustration. Frequently, these individuals have benefits like housing allowances, extremely inexpensive medical care, and PX shopping privileges.

Count on a Hard-Hitting Lawyer

Child support guidelines are presumptively, but not universally, applicable. For a consultation with an experienced Clearwater family lawyer, contact Cairns Law, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.


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