The Magnificent Seven of Child Support Deviation Factors in Florida
The Sunshine State is an income share jurisdiction. As such, Florida child support law includes a complex guideline formula which is presumptively reasonable in all such matters. That includes original determinations and subsequent modifications. However, since families are so diverse, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. At best, the guidelines are one-size-fits-most.
To overcome the reasonableness presumption and modify the guideline amount, either up or down, a Clearwater child support modification attorney must introduce substantial evidence on at least one of the following points. Attorneys must also keep these factors in mind during settlement negotiations.
Extraordinary Medical Expenses
Copays and other uninsured medical expenses are quite common. These expenses, even if they are rather significant, usually do not justify a permanent child support increase or decrease.
Generally, medical expenses are extraordinary if they are connected to a physical, mental, or other disability. Alternatively, the expenses might be connected to an accident. Usually, however, accident-related expenses are the subject of a different reimbursement order.
This factor does not come up very often because it specifically includes Social Security income. Very few children have independent income from modeling, acting, or other endeavors.
Age of the Child
Conversely, this factor is perhaps one of the most common child support deviation factors. Most parents know that older children are more expensive to raise than younger children. If the parents divorce when the children are young, the residential parent can build a financial reserve, at least theoretically. But that’s impossible if the children are already older. Additionally, the child’s age might be a factor in a motion to modify child support.
Shared Disability Costs
This factor is related to the aforementioned extraordinary medical expenses factor. When the parents were married, the family budget often covered disability-related costs, such as medical devices or home health care.
Florida law allows this cost-sharing arrangement to continue after divorce, even if that added expense drives the child support obligation above the guideline amount. Furthermore, after divorce, these costs are usually divided proportionally based on the income of each parent and some other factors.
Each Party’s Total Assets
Many parents have substantial nonmarital assets which were not part of the divorce property division. These assets can be factored into the property division, and they can also be factored into the child support division. The same thing applies to the child’s assets, if any.
Frequently, the Earned Income Tax Credit, daycare expense deduction, Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit, and other child-related tax credits and deductions are quite large. That’s especially true in large families. Traditionally, the residential parent receives all these benefits and allowances. If that’s the case, and these allowances are indeed significant, the other parent might be entitled to a sub-guideline child support obligation. Alternatively, the parents could agree to divide the tax benefits (e.g. they each claim one or more children).
Extraordinary Parenting Time Division
The guidelines assume that there is a traditional timesharing arrangement. Usually, the every other weekend/every other holiday division results in about a 70-30 distribution. If the actual distribution is significantly different, the child support guidelines might be inappropriate.
Contact a Tenacious Lawyer
The child support guidelines do not always accurately reflect a family’s financial realities. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Clearwater, contact Cairns Law, P.A. After hours and home visits are available.