The Steps: How Florida Courts Determine Child Support Obligations

Child support is an often-misunderstood topic in Florida family law.

In Florida, child support is not an obligation that one parent has to the other. Instead, it is an obligation that each parent has to the child — from the day he or she is born until he or she reaches adulthood. 

Florida Statute §61.30 sets the guidelines that Florida courts use to determine how much child support a parent owes. The statute establishes minimum levels of support based on the parents’ combined income. Courts use these guidelines to determine each parent’s individual child support obligation based on his or her proportion of the couple’s combined income.

The income used to make this determination is net income – gross income minus certain deductions. Gross income includes employment income (such as wages, salary, commissions and bonuses) and retirement, pension and social security benefits. Allowable deductions include federal, state and local taxes, mandatory retirement contributions, union dues and health insurance premiums.

The child support figure that results from this series of calculations is generally presumed to be correct, but the court may deviate from the guidelines. Taking into account “all relevant factors,” including the child’s needs and the financial status of each parent, the court may increase or decrease this amount by up to five percent. The court may alter the figure by an even greater amount if it provides written findings explaining its reasoning.

The court that enters a child support order retains jurisdiction to alter that support in the future. The court may do so when it is in the child’s best interests or when circumstances change substantially. 

A parent who wishes to modify his or her child support obligation must show that the change in their circumstances is material, significant, permanent and involuntary. For instance, a parent who chooses to quit a high-paying job for a lower-paying job would not be eligible for a modification because the change is voluntary. Parents who choose to have income significantly less than that readily available to them may find the court will attribute additional income to them. This is called “imputing” income.

If you have questions or concerns about your current or possible child support obligation, contact Osenton Law Offices.

Contact a divorce attorney and Brandon family law lawyer with the Osenton Law Offices, P.A. To learn more, visit

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