Child support is a highly contentious component of family law cases. Fortunately or sometimes unfortunately, there is a rather strict approach to calculating child support, found in Chapter 61.13 of the Florida Statutes.
The formula considers the income of both parents, the number of children, the contributions to health insurance and daycare, and the number of overnights each parent has. The court will typically only deviate from this figure by five percent.
Modifications of child support and timesharing may be appropriate if there has been an unanticipated, substantial change in circumstances. It is important to think ahead and plan for the future when determining a timesharing schedule. Too often parties think in the present when the child is only one year old. Unfortunately, the schedule that is in place now, is usually not appropriate in the future. It is also important to point out that the child reaching school age is not an unanticipated substantial change in circumstance, as it is expected that the child will grow older and eventually enroll in school.
An unanticipated substantial change in circumstance often occurs when one party does not comply with the timesharing schedule or when one party has a substantial change in lifestyle, such as drug usage or an abusive nature.
Timesharing on the other hand, has many options. The key to remember is that any action taken regarding the children, must be in the best interests of the children. By way of explanation, in Florida, there is no longer custody and visitation. Instead, there is a primary residential parent and timesharing by both parents.
The court will commonly order shared parental responsibility, meaning that both parents are involved in the important decisions of the child’s life (education, religion, health). The court will then designate a primary residential parent who is also the majority timesharing parent. This is the place were the child will primarily live. The other parent will have designated timesharing with the child. While on this subject, please note that court does not favor women over men, or visa versa.
Florida has set out minimum guideline visitation, whereby the parent with less timesharing is entitled to alternating weekends, and one evening during the week. However, there are more and more cases where the parties are exercising a 50/50 timesharing plan.
When determining a timesharing schedule, the court considers the parties’ work schedules, health, ability to care for the child, the willingness to encourage a relationship between the other parent and the child as well as several other factors. The court encourages both parties to communicate with each other for the benefit of the child and make the necessary efforts to ensure the best interests of the child are being served.
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