St. Petersburg Child Support Lawyer
Child support is an issue in any divorce where the spouses are responsible for a minor child in some way. Child support can also be ordered as part of a paternity action or other family law proceeding. Although child support is, in large part, determined by resort to the Florida Child Support Guidelines, many factors go into determining the correct amount of support, including deviating from the guidelines in appropriate circumstances. The St. Petersburg child support lawyers at Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., can provide invaluable assistance in child support cases by helping to ensure that child support is calculated accurately and fairly, meeting the needs of you and your children.
Florida Child Support Guidelines
Using the child support guidelines requires filling out an extensive, multi-page worksheet that takes into account the combined income of the parents and the number of children to be supported to arrive at a monthly guideline amount. If the parents are paid other than on a monthly basis, they will need to convert their wages or salary to a monthly amount to be in line with the guidelines, which are based on monthly amounts.
The guidelines worksheet starts with each parent’s net monthly income, which is drawn from yet another worksheet known as the Financial Affidavit. This affidavit takes into account a parent’s income from just about every considerable source, including bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and similar payments, business income, disability benefits/SSI, Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment Compensation, pension, retirement, or annuity payments, Social Security benefits, alimony received from the current case or other cases, interest and dividends, rental income, income from royalties, trusts, or estates, monthly reimbursed expenses and in-kind payments to the extent that they reduce personal living expenses, recurring gains derived from dealing in property, and any other income of a recurring nature.
Our St. Petersburg child support attorneys can help at this stage by ensuring that each parent’s affidavit is filled out completely and correctly. A full and accurate reporting of income is essential to arriving at a proper amount of support.
After plugging in the parents’ net monthly income, the worksheet proceeds to arrive at a basic monthly obligation, each parent’s percent of financial responsibility and their share of basic monthly obligation. Next comes the possibility of additional support to cover costs for health insurance, child care, and non-covered medical, dental and prescription expenses. Further adjustments and credits may yet be made after that. Finally, the guidelines worksheet requires a series of additional, lengthy steps if each parent has substantial time-sharing responsibilities, defined in the guidelines as 73 overnights per year.
Although these worksheets and affidavits contain personally identifiable information, victims of domestic violence such as spousal abuse can file special forms to keep their address confidential from the other party in this process.
Motion to Deviate from Child Support Guidelines
Even after all the work involved in computing the monthly amount of child support according to the guidelines, it turns out the guidelines amount is only presumed to be the proper amount. Either party can file a motion with the court to deviate up or down from the guidelines amount. The judge is empowered to order a deviation as much as five percent either way for good reason, or more than five percent if convinced it would be appropriate or just to do so. In ruling on a motion to deviate, the court will consider the following factors:
- Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses.
- Independent income of the child, not to include moneys received by a child from supplemental security income.
- The payment of support for a parent which has been regularly paid and for which there is a demonstrated need.
- Seasonal variations in one or both parents’ incomes or expenses.
- The age of the child, taking into account the greater needs of older children.
- Special needs, such as costs that may be associated with the disability of a child, that have traditionally been met within the family budget even though fulfilling those needs will cause the support to exceed the presumptive amount established by the guidelines.
- Total available assets of the obligee, obligor, and the child.
- The impact of the Internal Revenue Service Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and dependency exemption and waiver of that exemption.
- An application of the child support guidelines schedule that requires a person to pay another person more than 55 percent of his or her gross income for a child support obligation for current support resulting from a single support order.
- The particular parenting plan, a court-ordered time-sharing schedule, or a time-sharing arrangement exercised by agreement of the parties, such as where the child spends a significant amount of time, but less than 20 percent of the overnights, with one parent, thereby reducing the financial expenditures incurred by the other parent; or the refusal of a parent to become involved in the activities of the child.
- Any other adjustment that is needed to achieve an equitable result which may include, but not be limited to, a reasonable and necessary existing expense or debt. Such expense or debt may include, but is not limited to, a reasonable and necessary expense or debt that the parties jointly incurred during the marriage.
If you are seeking or opposing a deviation from the guidelines amount, our child support attorneys will apply their years of experience as Board Certified trial lawyers to prepare and argue a strong case to the judge in favor of your position.
Knowledgeable and Experienced Legal Help With Child Support in St. Petersburg
If you are seeking child support or being asked to pay as part of a divorce, child custody matter or paternity action in St. Petersburg or surrounding areas, call Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., for advice and representation from a team of skilled and dedicated St. Petersburg child support lawyers.