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Child Support in Your Sarasota Family Law Case
Child support for your case in Sarasota, Florida is calculated using a statewide schedule. If you would like to review the detailed statute, I have provided the link:
How Is Child Support Calculated?
The short hand version of how child support is calculated is as follows:
1. The Court will determine both parents’s gross and net incomes.
2. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed, or underemployed, the court may “impute” income to that parent. (Determine a fair and reasonable level of income for that parent).
3. The Court will then allocate certain child related expenses between the parties, including: health insurance expense for the children; and daycare expense. These expenses are usually allocated based on the parents net incomes. So if one parent makes more net income than the other parent, the parent with the higher net income will pay a greater percentage of the health insurance and day care cost.
4. The Court will consider the total number of the parties dependent children. Under the schedule, the “per child” support decreases with each additional child. (The idea is that certain child care expenses are fixed, and really do not increase with each additional child).
5. If the children spend at least 20% of the their overnights with each parent, the Court will adjust support based on the total number of overnights the children spend with each parent. The 20% threshold is only 73 overnights per year, so in most cases child sport will be adjusted based on the total number of overnights spent with each parent.
6. The Court will then make a “guideline” child support calculation. In most cases the guideline calculation is the child support that the Court orders paid. (The Court can order greater or less than guideline support – but there has to be a specific reason why).
Child Support Lawyer
A good Sarasota family law lawyer can be a big help in your child support case. The lawyer’s help starts with the preparation of the child support worksheet. Preparing a child support worksheet is not simply a matter of typing numbers into a spreadsheet and handing the worksheet to the judge. The best (and fairest) result occurs when your attorney sits down with you and takes the time to: (1) carefully reviews both parties incomes; (2) take into account all possible credits and adjustments that can be made; and (3) presents the worksheet in a manner that makes sense to the court.
Another way your Sarasota family law attorney can help your case is by using a special software package most family law lawyers use to calculate child support for their clients. This software packages take into account the federal income tax child credit and deduction. Because the credit and deduction are often not accurately reflected in pay stubs, using the software provides a more accurate picture of each parties’ true net income for child support.
Child Support Modification
Florida allows for the modification of a child support orders. There are a number of case specific exceptions that may apply to you, which is why it is so important to meet with an attorney to review your specific situation. As a general rule:
- The parent requesting a modification must show that there has been a substantial change in the circumstances of the parties. (Or that the child is emancipated, married, has joined the armed services, or has died).
- A “substantial change in circumstances” can be any number of things. However, the most common way to show a substantial change in circumstances is to demonstrate that the new child support order will vary by at least 15% (or $50) from the old child support order.
- The 15%/$50 change is usually the result of changes in the parents’ incomes, or the entry of a new parenting plan (custody order) that substantially changes the number of overnights a child spends with each parent.
Department of Revenue Involvement
Many child support modifications are initiated by the Florida Department of Revenue. (Manatee and Sarasota Counties have major differences on how case initiated by the Department are handled). There is no charge for the Department’s representation, and in theory the Department is representing the children’s interests.
However, the Department’s involvement is really limited to just child support issues, and determining determining paternity. The Department will not represent you in resolving other issues in your divorce or custody case.