Child Custody

Child Custody

How Much Will My Ex Owe Me in Child Support?

Regardless of how friendly your divorce is, complications and complex decisions must be made regarding your children. This includes decisions regarding child support—which are tied both to the distribution of time-sharing for both parents, and certain other factors. Child support is meant to cover normal daily expenses involved with raising a child.

These expenses may include shelter, food, clothing, medical care, and possibly, the educational needs of the child. Florida child support is calculated by using Florida’s statutory child support calculator or formula that includes the time-sharing arrangement, daycare costs, health insurance payments, and the combined income of both parents.

What is Considered “Income” for Both Parents?

Whether you are the spouse who will be paying Florida child support or the parent who will be receiving support, you may not be aware of what is considered income during child support calculations. Essentially, payments from any source are considered when calculating child support, including the following:

  • Salary or wages
  • Bonuses
  • Alimony
  • Social Security
  • Income from a business owned or co-partnered by the parent
  • Commissions
  • Rental income (net)
  • Income from annuities
  • Disability benefits
  • Retirement or pension funds
  • Royalty income
  • Workers’ compensation benefits
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Overtime Pay
  • Tips
  • Trusts and estates

Florida’s law is clear about the fact that just because a form of income is not explicitly mentioned does not mean it is exempt—or that the court cannot use the income to determine child support payments. In some cases, a parent who will be the paying parent becomes—or stays—voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. If the court determines this is the case, they will impute income to that parent based on past employment and education.

As an example, if one parent has worked in a professional capacity for the past decade, earning a salary of $150,000 per year, then suddenly begins working at a minimum wage job, the court will use the $150,000 per year salary to compute child support. In other words, Florida courts will not reward bad behavior because doing so would be detrimental to the child’s best interests. If a parent is involuntarily unemployed or underemployed, then this is not an issue.

Allowable Deductions to Income

Once all forms of income have been gathered and added up for both parents, allowable deductions will be subtracted. Examples of these deductions include:

  • Federal, state, and local income tax deductions
  • Some health insurance premiums
  • Union dues that are mandatory
  • Social Security deductions
  • Medicare deductions
  • Court-ordered Alimony
  • Court-ordered child support payments for a child from another relationship
  • Retirement payments

Allowable deductions lower the total amount of income earned by each parent when determining the amount of child support to be paid.

Calculating Child Support

Once the net income has been calculated for each parent, a Florida child support calculator can be used to determine the approximate amount of child support. The chart displays a monthly amount required to support a specific number of children at each income level. As an example, if the combined net income of both parents is $4,100, the minimum support required for two children will be $1,315.

Because the mother, in this case, makes $2,300 per month and the father makes $1,800, the mother is responsible for 56.10 percent ($737) of the child support amount and the father is responsible for 43.9 percent ($577)—although the number of overnights for each parent must still be factored in. If the combined net income of both parents is more than $10,000 per month, the amount of income over that $10,000 will be multiplied by a percentage determined by the number of children. As an example, the percentage is 5 for one child and 7.5 for 2.

In the state of Florida, most expenses for the child are assumed to be covered by the custodial parent—meaning the custodial parent’s child support is expected to go directly toward the child’s daily needs in the form of clothing, food, housing, school, travel, and miscellaneous expenses. This is why a parent who has a significantly greater number of overnights with the child is given a break on child support, and a parent who spends few overnights with the child will pay more child support.

So, child support could be lowered if one parent spends a significant number of overnights with the child because it will reduce the childcare costs of the other parent. If both parents spend more than 20 percent of overnights with the child, the payment amount is multiplied by 1.5, then multiplied by the percentage of overnight stays the child has with the other parent. The difference between the two figures is the amount to be transferred between parents.

Once this number is calculated, the following can make a difference in the final amount of child support:

  • The age of the child
  • Any special needs involving the disability of a child
  • Seasonal changes in parental income
  • The medical and psychological needs of the child or either parent
  • Any independent income of the child

The court may also require either parent to pay for special expenses related to the child, including:

  • Health care premiums for the child
  • Vision or dental insurance premiums for the child
  • Costs related to daycare
  • Educational costs for the child

These costs may be split between the parents or assigned to one or the other parent. Additionally, the court has the discretion to set the child support amount five percent above or below the amount in the guidelines. Deviations greater than five percent require a written finding to justify the different amount.

What About Back-Owed Child Support

When child support is being determined, a parent is entitled to seek retroactive child support, dating back to the time when the parents stopped living in the same home. This retroactive period cannot exceed 24 months. Before 1998, there was no limit to retroactive child support, which could conceivably go back as far as the child’s birth. So, for a child born before 1998, back child support is not limited to 24 months and can go back as far as the child’s birth. Retroactive child support can be sought even after a child turns 18.

You might wonder how retroactive child support could be accurately determined, particularly for cases in which the child was born before 1998. How could income and expenses for each parent be accurately determined during a period lasting up to 18 years? The answer is that the court will simply do the best they can, going back to determine what job each parent held during the time in question, and what their salary at the time was. If the amount of child support is significant, the court may allow the paying parent to set up a payment plan.

How is Child Support Determined When Parents Live in Different States?

Parents who live in different states can bump into jurisdictional court issues, particularly when the court in one state does not have the authority to enforce support ordered in another state. In these cases, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act is referenced.

Federal law requires each state to have the IFSA in effect as a means of enforcing child support orders from any state. This means that a Florida child support attorney can take legal action to enforce a child support order on a resident from another state. The UIFSA can also be used to establish a child support case when the parents live in different states.

How is Child Support Paid, and How Can a Parent Be Forced to Pay Child Support?

How the paying parent pays child support will depend on the court order—how the judge ordered the payments to be made. In some circumstances, you are allowed to pay child support directly to the other parent. If the Florida Department of Revenue is involved in the child support case, the child support will be paid through the State Disbursement Unit.

If you were ordered to pay through the Florida State Disbursement Unit, and you pay directly to the other parent, it can look like you are not paying your court-ordered child support—and can be difficult to resolve. The receiving parent may receive child support payments as a direct deposit, a bank transfer, or through a state-issued debit card. If the paying parent is not paying as ordered, wage garnishment may be initiated.

A wage garnishment automatically deducts the funds from the paying parent’s paycheck; garnishments can continue for as long as necessary to ensure child support is properly paid. Tax refunds can be garnished to satisfy child support payments, and failure to pay support can even result in a suspension of the paying parent’s driver’s license. The non-paying parent could also be charged with contempt of court or could face criminal charges.

Can Child Support Be Modified?

When a substantial change in circumstances occurs—for either parent or for the child—a child support modification may be requested. Judges are generally only interested in any changes that have occurred since the initial child support order was issued. If a parent is asking for a child support modification based on income changes, there must be at least a $50 or 15 percent change in income, either up or down, to qualify for a substantial change.

Just because the paying parent has had a reduction in income, this does not automatically qualify the parent for a reduction in child support. The court will comprehensively review the circumstances to determine whether a change is warranted. Since child support is at least partially based on how much time a parent spends with the child (the number of overnights), if this changes substantially, then a child support modification can be requested.

In some instances, changes in child-related expenses could justify changes in child support, however, the types of expenses that justify a change are limited and specific. Some of the acceptable changes in child-related expenses include a child being enrolled in daycare—or a child who was previously enrolled in daycare who then starts public school.

A court-ordered child support order for a child of another marriage or relationship can result in a modification of child support, as can the end of a prior alimony order, which can result in a decrease or increase in income for one parent.

When payroll taxes significantly change, the resulting net income can result in higher or lower child support. This could occur when a parent moves to a state with substantially different payroll taxes. While most Florida child support calculations include the cost of health insurance premiums for the child, if those premiums change significantly, it could be necessary to file for a modification of child support. The same is true if the health insurance premiums for a parent significantly increase or decrease.

The parent asking for a modification must file a Supplemental Petition to Modify Child Support, then serve this petition on the other spouse. Both parents will be required to disclose financial information and, in some jurisdictions, the court may require mediation before setting a trial. If the Florida Department of Revenue has ever been involved with your case, you will be required to be seen by a Child Support Hearing Officer. Cases that fall in this category may be significantly more complicated.

When Does Child Support End?

In the state of Florida, child support ends when a child reaches his or her 18th birthday, although there are certain exceptions. If a child is still in high school but will graduate prior to reaching the age of 19, then child support may continue until the child’s graduation. However, if the child is obviously not on track to graduate from high school before the age of 19, then Florida child support will terminate on the child’s 18th birthday. This provision in Florida law is meant to encourage parents to ensure their child graduates on time. If the child is physically or emotionally dependent, the parent may be required to pay child support past the child’s 18th birthday.

How Ayo & Iken Can Help with Your Child Support Issues

If you have questions about child support, we can help. The highly skilled, compassionate attorneys at Ayo and Iken are ready to protect your rights throughout your divorce. We can help you evaluate child support or revisit a previous child support decision.

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10 Easy Ways to Improve Co-Parenting with Your Ex

Unless domestic violence or substance abuse has been a part of your marriage, co-parenting is a necessary part of raising your children. This means that both parents should play an active role in their children’s daily lives whenever possible.

Study after study has found that children simply do better when they have close relationships with both parents. Anxiety and depression are seen less often among children whose parents have been able to put relationship issues aside and made the conscious decision to focus on the children.

Of course, when the divorce was less than pleasant, co-parenting harmoniously may be easier said than done.

In fact, joint custody arrangements can be fraught with stress, not to mention infuriating occasionally, and thoroughly exhausting. You may have concerns about the parenting ability of your ex, there could be child support issues, or you may simply feel as though the resentments left over from your marriage will never truly go away.

When you are co-parenting, however, resolving conflicts between you and your ex is essential to making co-parenting work.

While perfect harmony may never be the reality, the key to successful co-parenting is separating your parenting issues from your relationship issues. For the well-being of your children, think of the co-parenting relationship you now have with your ex as an entirely new relationship, minus all the baggage from your marriage.

When you and your ex have reached at least a minimum level of cooperation, your children will benefit in the following ways:

  • The consistency between households benefits the children
  • Children feel more secure and can adjust more quickly to the divorce when they see their parents cooperating with one another
  • When parents work together, the children learn how to do the same, solving problems on their own
  • Your children will build and maintain stronger relationships when they see their parents cooperating with one another

Improve Co-Parenting With These Tips

The following tips can help you improve your co-parenting skills, giving your children numerous added benefits in the process.

1) Learn to set your own emotions aside. It is important to set aside your emotions about your ex -particularly resentment and anger. Try to think of each interaction with your ex in terms of what your children need from the two of you. Although it may be hard to accept, co-parenting has nothing to do with your feelings about your ex and everything to do with the well-being of your children, not to mention their stability and happiness.

While it can be difficult to separate acrimonious feelings from behavior, when you always let what’s best for your children dictate your actions, you will find yourself working cooperatively and co-parenting peacefully. Make your overarching “mantras” be the following:

  • I will not let my negative emotions spill over into my co-parenting or onto my children. Talk to a friend, talk to a therapist, go for a long walk or another type of exercise, but never, never vent to your children about your ex.
  • I will stay focused on my children. When you feel angry with your ex, look at your children. Imagine how difficult it is for them when they have to witness that anger against their other parent—whom they love.
  • I will not put my children in the middle. Using your children as messengers to deliver less than kind words to your ex puts them squarely in the center of your conflict, making them feel as though they have to choose sides, or cannot show their love for their other parent in front of you.
  • I will not say negative things about my ex in front of my children. No matter how tempting it is to tell your child that she can’t go to summer camp because her father didn’t send the child support check, bite your tongue—as many times as it takes. Your children deserve a relationship with both parents that is free from the influence of the other parent.

2) Work on your communication skills with your ex. No matter how impossible it seems, peaceful communication with your ex is essential. Once again, consider the well-being of your child. Tell yourself that purposeful communication with your ex benefits your child in every way.

Keep your dignity intact when you communicate with your ex, talking only about your child and his or her needs. Remember, there are other methods of communication in today’s digital world. You can exchange texts or emails, so long as you keep them brief and to the point—and always conflict-free.

Think of communication with your ex as though you were communicating with a co-worker or boss that you are not overly fond of—but still relate to in a business-like manner. Remain cordial, respectful, and neutral to the extent possible. Try the following to improve communication with your ex:

  • Instead of “telling,” or demanding, learn to request. “Could we try…?” or “Might you be willing to…?” are much more likely to garner a positive reaction than “You need to…”
  • Learn to listen before you speak. If you had communication problems in your marriage—and you probably did since you’re divorced—it can be hard to get past old habits. Remember that listening does not signify agreement—allow your ex to say what he or she needs to say, then answer thoughtfully.
  • Even when your ex is deliberately pushing your buttons, exercise restraint and do your best not to react. If your children are young, you will have many years to deal with your ex, so burning bridges is never a good idea.
  • Keep your needs and the needs of your ex out of your conversations, while keeping your conversations wholly focused on your children.
  • If your anger or frustration gets the best of you, wait until you’re calm, then apologize—sincerely. This enables you to move forward, rather than building up more resentments.
  • Find an issue you don’t feel strongly about and ask your ex’s opinion. You lose nothing while building goodwill.

3) Always remember you and your ex are a team. Parenting is full of decisions, so if you can consider it to be teamwork with a goal (healthy, happy children), things tend to fall into place much more easily. Work together to have at least roughly the same set of expectations at each parent’s home to avoid confusion for the children.

While the rules don’t have to be identical, if they are at least close, it makes it easier for the children to go back and forth between households. Aim for some level of consistency in the children’s schedules from house to house.

If one parent had dinner at 5 and bedtime at 9, but the other has dinner at 8 and bedtime at 11, it gets confusing for the children. Realize that you and your ex will be discussing educational needs, medical needs, financial issues, discipline, and so much more, so working as a team makes sense.

4) Make transitions and visitations as easy as possible. Keep the transition easy, whether you exchange the children every few days, on certain weekends, or only once a month. Remember that every visitation with one parent is a separation from the other.

Remind your children about the visit a day or two ahead of time, then again when it gets closer to time, to help them adjust to the transition. When your child returns, keep things low-key for a while to help them adjust, giving them space to make the transition on their own time.

Children thrive on routine, so serve the same special meal or play a game they enjoy every time the child returns. When a child refuses to visit a parent, it can be a knife in the heart of that parent. Try to figure out the problem while remaining sensitive to your ex’s feelings. The problem could be an easy one to resolve, or could be a misunderstanding that requires a conversation.

5) To be the best co-parent, heal yourself. If you haven’t done the work and haven’t moved on from your marriage, it’s going to be difficult to have a peaceful co-parenting relationship. Own your role in the end of your marriage and engage in a little self-reflection. When you reach a happier place, co-parenting will naturally become easier as well.

6) Take a step back. While it can be difficult to do, when you run into a brick wall when co-parenting with your ex, take a step back. Close your eyes, and remember that you once loved this person and that your children are a product of that love. Try to remember what you liked about your ex in the beginning, and work hard to find something good about his or her ability as a parent.

7) Remain flexible. Flexibility is critical, no matter how much it hurts. While it can be really hard to afford your ex the benefit of the doubt when they’re late (especially if one of your marital issues was that very thing), dig deep inside and find some grace for the person if not the behavior. Never say no just to be contrary, especially when the change is not a difficult one for you.

8) Remember that “fair” doesn’t always mean “equal.” Of course, your time with your child or children is precious, especially now that it’s more limited. Because of this, it’s easy to jump straight to anger when your ex seems to always be scheduling extracurricular activities during your time. Instead of getting angry, remember that what’s best for you may not be best for your child and that your job is to always be your child’s cheerleader, no matter if it’s cutting into your time.

9) Remember special events. As tempting as it is—and it often is—don’t ignore your ex’s birthday or other special holidays. Remember, you are the adult, so take your child shopping for a present for the other parent or help them plan a special dinner for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

It can give your child an immense sense of joy to do something special for a parent, but few children can plan and carry out a special treat on their own. Look at it this way—if you are a bigger person and help your child do something special for their other parent, maybe he or she will return the favor when it’s your special day.

10) Never forget that your child is your child—not your best friend. Leave your children out of adult decisions. Don’t discuss money problems with your children, and don’t discuss your ex’s parenting style. Adult decisions are just that—decisions made by adults. The children don’t need the pressure of deciding where they will live, where they will go to school, or any other big decision. Find a support system to confide in, but let your children be children.

Co-parenting can be collaborative and relatively peaceful—or a hot mess of terrible. To keep things on an even keel, if you can’t let go of your bitter feelings, at least learn to compartmentalize them. You can despite your ex on your own time, away from the children.

Think of co-parenting as a business arrangement if you simply can’t come together. You want your business to be successful and will go to any lengths to make that happen. You want your children to be happy and successful, so be willing to go to any length to ensure that happens.

Having a detailed parenting plan which is structured yet flexible can really benefit your child-rearing partnership. In fact, the more contentious your divorce or marriage, the more you need rules and routines in your co-parenting journey.

Decide how birthdays and holidays will be handled, be clear on transition routines, and even discuss whether it’s okay to post pictures of the children on social media. Revisit the parenting plan every year or so to ensure it’s still relevant.

Co-parenting can be one of the most challenging things you will ever do in your life—and also one of the most rewarding. Your reward is raising happy, well-adjusted children, despite your feelings about your ex.

How Ayo & Iken Can Help with Your Parenting Issues

The highly skilled, compassionate attorneys at Ayo and Iken are ready to protect your rights throughout your divorce aggressively. To help serve you best, it is important to create a solid parenting plan during your divorce so that you can co-parent effectively and without tension. We can help you do that.

All divorce cases are deferred to Howard Iken.