One of the important children issues facing parents in family law matters is the financial support of the children. Child support is not really considered a parental right—it is a right that belongs to the children. Indeed, child support is a dual “obligation” imposed by the law on all parents. This parental obligation (or, perhaps, better said, the children’s right to financial support) cannot be waived or contracted away by the parents. Under §61.13(1)(a), Florida Statutes, the court in an action for dissolution of marriage “may at any time order either or both parents who owe a duty of support to a child to pay support in accordance with the guidelines in s. 61.30.”
The guidelines at §61.30 include a table that sets forth the basic or presumptive amount that must be ordered by the courts for child support based upon the parents’ combined net monthly incomes and the number of children. Any allowable child care costs, costs of health insurance coverage for the children and costs of noncovered medical care, dental care and prescription medications for the children may be added to the basic child support obligation. And, then each parent’s percentage share of said child support amount is determined by dividing each parent’s net income by the combined net income, and then by multiplying each parent’s percentage share by the total child support amount.
Section 61.30 allows the courts to deviate from the presumptive or guideline amount by greater than 5% (either plus or minus) after consideration of a number of factors that are set forth in the statute.
In cases in which the children spend a substantial amount (20% or more) of overnights with each parent, the courts must adjust the paying parent’s child support obligation by applying a mathematical formula that is set forth in the statute. See §61.30(11)(b).
Under §61.1301, when a court orders child support, other than a temporary order, the court must enter a separate income deduction order. Child support payments made by immediate income deduction shall be paid through the State Disbursement Unit or local depository (the “SDU”). See §61.13(1)(d). If both parties request and the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child, the support payments may not be subject to immediate income deduction and any such payments may be ordered payable through the SDU or directly to the obligee (i.e., the parent receiving the child support payment). Id.
If a parent has received or is receiving public benefits, such as a monthly allotment for food under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) or cash assistance under the Welfare Transition Program (“WT”), then the Department of Revenue may become involved to establish or enforce the other parent’s child support obligations through administrative or court proceedings.
In addition to divorce cases, child support may be ordered in other types of cases such as paternity cases, domestic violence cases, adoption matters or an action for child support unconnected with a dissolution of the marriage.