In many respects, the laws surrounding child support are the most straightforward
of all the family law-related calculations. As in other states, Florida
imposes a precise
statutory calculation on the determination of child support, which courts can only
deviate from in certain circumstances (and even then, generally only by
five percent up or down).
Once a child's primary residence is established, the non-custodial
parent acquires the responsibility to provide support payments to the
other parent for child-raising expenses. Determining this payment is a
multi-step process, which begins with the calculation of the parents' incomes.
Once income is established, a chart contained in the statute provides a
payment amount, depending on income. This base amount is then allocated
between the parents, relative to their respective incomes. These figures
are subsequently adjusted to account for medical expenses, child care
expenses, or other similar child-related expenses. And the final amount
imputed to the non-custodial parent is the "guideline" child
support payment, to be adjusted only when needed.
The first step of these calculations, however, is always a determination
of the parents' incomes. And often, this can be the most contentious
aspect of child support proceedings.
Generally, all kinds of income count for purposes of calculating child
support, including dividend payments, interest, and royalties. Government
benefits, such as Social Security payments or disability payments, also
count for calculation of income. And employment benefits that take forms
other than cash count as income too, provided those benefits "reduce
living expenses." In other words, even if an employer pays you in
some tangible item (or, say, by providing housing), that item is included
in the determination of income for purposes of child support.
This last category is often the subject of dispute: A parent to whom child
support will be paid will seek to define some fringe work benefit as income
while the paying, non-custodial parent seeks to frame that benefit as
something connected with work and work alone, rather than something that
reduces his or her living expenses.
In the 2000 case of
Lauro, a Florida court was faced with a wife who was arguing that the husband's
per diem reimbursements for meals when away on business trips should be
included in the calculations of his income. She asserted that, because
he could use the per diem to pay for his meals away from home, he did
not have to buy groceries—which, in turn, led to a reduction of
his living expenses.
The court, however, disagreed:
South Florida Family Lawyers Can Answer Your Questions
If you are seeking a
divorce and need help navigating the law, please reach out to our professionals
at Hager, Schwartz & Ross, P.A. in Miami today. We can help you through
this time and advise you on any and all family law-related matters.
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