According to Florida Statute 61.29(1), "each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child." Child support is a parental obligation, not a parental right. The right to be financially supported belongs to the child, not the parents. Federal and state laws therefore preclude waiver of child support. An agreement to waive a child's right to support is generally unenforceable because the child's best interests are of primary importance to the courts.
Many parents make the mistake of believing nothing will happen to them if they stop paying child support. That couldn't be more untrue. In fact, the penalties for failure to pay as mandated by a court order are especially harsh, and could include criminal charges.
The parental obligation to support a minor or legally dependent child involves much more than just one parent paying a predetermined amount of money to the other parent. It means making sure that a child has acceptable shelter, food, clothing and healthcare. It also means that if a child is fortunate enough to have a parent with abundant means, the child should benefit from that abundance.
How 'income' is defined
When calculating the cost of child support, an experienced Coral Springs attorney will likely begin by carefully reviewing records regarding the incomes of both parents. What counts as "income" is specified in Florida Statute 61.30(2) and includes:
- salary or wages
- bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments
- business income from sources such as self-employment, partnership, close corporations and independent contracts
- disability benefits
- all workers’ compensation benefits and settlements
- reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation
- pension, retirement, or annuity payments
- social Security benefits
- spousal support
- interest and dividends
- rental income
- income from royalties, trusts, or estates
- reimbursed expenses or in kind payments
- gains derived from dealings in property, unless the gain is nonrecurring
Each parent's contribution to healthcare expenses and daycare expenses also needs to be accounted for. The amount of time that each parent will be spending with the child also affects the final child support calculation. All of these factors need to be considered in accordance with the guidelines schedule which is set forth in Florida Statute 61.30(6).
What if both parties agree?
It is important to note that, although a child's right to child support cannot be waived, it is sometimes possible for parents to agree that neither is required to pay child support to each other. This may be the case when both parents earn similar incomes, are contributing an equal amount to healthcare and daycare expenses or are spending an equal amount of time with their minor child. In that circumstance, an experienced attorney may prepare a marital settlement agreement with clear and unmistakable language indicating that the child is being supported equally by both parents. Child support guidelines would still need to be part of such an agreement, along with language specifying that the arrangement is in the child's best interest. It would then be up to the court whether to ratify and approve agreement.
Calculating a fair and appropriate child support obligation can be surprisingly complicated. Discussing the specific details of your child support matter with a qualified Parkland attorney will assist in making decisions that benefit your child, while ensuring that you pay only what you are required to.