On behalf of The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A.
When a couple with children begins divorce proceedings, child support is one of the main issues on the table. If both parents agree on the amount of support, they can include it in their agreement and get approval from the judge. In other cases, the parents may have to litigate specific provisions. Either way, support amounts in Florida should follow the state’s guidelines. When simply adhering to the guidelines would not be in the child’s best interests, the courts have the authority to approve deviations.
Generally, support payments are paid by the parent who spends less time with the child. The law assumes that the custodial or majority time-share parent pays for most of the child’s day-to-day expenses. Support is the other parent’s way of contributing his or her share to paying for the child’s needs.
Basically, child support calculations start off with considering basic needs: clothing, food, and shelter. Other considerations include both parents’ income, as well as the family’s general standard of living. Courts also commonly take into account necessities such as medical expenses, health insurance, and childcare that are necessary for a parent to be able to work.
A parent who feels that support should pay for any other expenses will need to ask the court for a guideline deviation. As child support is meant to protect the interests of the child, not the custodial parent, a request for a deviation needs to be backed up by an explanation of why this additional payment is important to the child’s welfare.
Examples of expenses that will not be factored into child support unless the judge approves a deviation include the following:
- Private school tuition
- Extracurricular activities
- Tutoring or lessons
- School supplies
Many of these expenses can be important to a child’s developmental, social and psychological well-being, even though they go beyond the basic necessities. Whether or not a court will approve such an expense can depend on several factors. Judges typically look at the child’s specific circumstances, as well as previous living standards and the parents’ incomes. For example, when a non-custodial parent has a significantly higher income, which during the marriage was used to pay for many of these extras, the court may not want to deprive the child of these activities or benefits. In other cases, a child may have special medical or psychological needs that justify the additional expense.
While child support automatically covers basic necessities such as food and shelter, the guidelines also allow for the addition of payments for other needs or expenses. Consult an experienced divorce attorney in your area to learn more about your potential child support rights and obligations in the event of a divorce.