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Paul E. Riffel Tampa Estate Planning Attorney

How is child support established in Florida?

Both parents have an equal duty to support their children. You need to know that the right to support belongs to the child, and it may not be waived or contracted away by a parent.

The court must set child support pursuant the guideline amount – calculated by using a formula – unless it makes a written finding
of fact outlining why that amount is not in the best interest of the child. This almost never occurs and, therefore, the parties can expect that the child support guidelines will be the final number in the final judgment. The court has the discretion to increase or decrease the support by 5 percent without making written findings, and that sometimes happens.

The court will impute income to “an unemployed or underemployed parent” when calculating child support. The only exception is if an individual is disabled. The income imputed to the parent would usually be the minimum wage or his or her last wage earned.

In addition to child support, Florida statute requires that the court include a provision for healthcare coverage for the child if “coverage is reasonably available” through a parent’s employer.

Retroactive support may be ordered from the date of the parties’ separation or up to a maximum
of 24 months before the filing of the petition. Child support generally terminates when a child reaches
age 18, marries, dies, or becomes self-supporting.

That said, support may be ordered or continued beyond age 18 if the child is dependent because of a mental or physical disability that began before the age of 18 enrolled in high school, or between the ages of 18 and 19 and expected to graduate before age 19.

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