Florida’s Flawed Child Support Guidelines

Florida’s statutory child support guidelines were developed to ensure uniform child support awards across the state based on the combined incomes of the parents. But is this basic premise of fairness actually accomplished by the current guidelines? Probably not.

Once the court has determined the parents’ combined net income under the child support statute, the guidelines schedule, found at section 61.30(6), Fla. Stat., calculates the amount of child support to be awarded based on the number of children eligible for child support. This statutory schedule allegedly estimates the normal costs of raising each child in an intact family, apart from child care, health insurance and any extraordinary medical expenses.

Unfortunately, these estimated child-rearing costs haven’t been updated since the 1970’s.  More than thirty years of intervening increased costs of living has essentially ravaged the guideline support amounts. This unfairly leaves children with significantly inadequate child support awards in 2015 under the outdated guidelines.

Wealthier parents also generally benefit over poorer parents under Florida’s guidelines schedule. Poorer parents pay a greater percentage of their income for child support than more affluent parents, though wealthier parents may have to pay guidelines child support amounts in amounts significantly higher than needed by any child.

Poor parents also pay a much higher marginal rate than wealthier parents. The marginal rate is the percentage increase in child support when a parent’s income increases. Under the current support guidelines schedule, a poorer parent may pay as much as 95 percent of his or her income increase for child support, while a wealthier parent can pay as little as 5 percent of an income increase.

For example, a parent of one child earning $650 net monthly who receives a $100 net monthly raise would pay an extra $90 in child support based on the increase. But a parent of one child earning $800 net monthly income who receives the same $100 net monthly raise would only pay an extra $23 in child support. This is a regressive structure that should be remediated by the Florida legislature.

Child support awards can be a confusing area of family law. Incorrect calculations can result in overpayment or underpayment of child support under the guidelines. If you have questions or concerns about child support calculations and awards, consult with an experienced family law attorney to better understand your child support rights and obligations under Florida law.

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