One of the most critical parts of a divorce is determining child support. In our state, however, we have a Florida Child Support Calculator that can help understand what the child support amount will be in your situation. Let’s look at how this calculator works, how to use this calculator, how close this estimate can be to the actual amount awarded by the court, and what variables might be at play that affects the final numbers.

What is the Florida Child Support Calculator?

For all but two counties (Miami-Dade and Manatee), the Florida Department of Revenue oversees the Florida Child Support Enforcement Program. The program provides an array of services including paternity testing, genetic testing, establishing a child support order and enforcing those support orders. The state of Florida provides specific guidelines as to how much child support parents must provide after a divorce. The Florida Department of Revenue provides a free calculator for parents to estimate the amount.

How to Use the Florida Child Support Calculator

1)    Enter the income of both parents. The custodial or majority parent is the parent that has the children most of the time.
2)    Enter the number of children that the support order will cover.
3)    Enter the monthly daycare costs paid by each parent
4)    Enter the monthly healthcare costs for the children paid by each parent. Healthcare is listed in two sub-categories: the amount toward healthcare insurance, and if applicable, the amount of any healthcare or medical expenses not covered by health insurance. For example, if you pay out-of-pocket for a specific prescription for your child, you would enter that in the second category.
5)    Enter the total number of the child’s overnight stays with each parent. The stays are cumulative for the year, so the total of both amounts must equal 365.

The calculator will then determine the percentage of financial responsibility of each parent. The calculation establishes the amount of child support paid by each parent. It will also show the monthly total child support owed to the mother by the father, or to the father by the mother.

Factors to Consider Before Using the Calculator

The Florida Child Support Calculator is relatively straightforward to use, but only for estimation purposes. If your combined monthly income is under $800 or over $10,000, the calculator will not be able to provide an accurate estimate.

A court needs proof of paternity in order to issue child support. You can determine paternity in several ways. The easiest is if both parents are married when the child is born, which automatically establishes paternity. If the parents are unmarried, the father can establish paternity by signing as the father on the birth certificate.

When neither of these outcomes happens at the hospital during the child’s birth, paternity can still be determined. If the couple gets married afterward, the parents can complete an “Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida” form when applying for their marriage license. Unmarried parents can retroactively add the father to the birth certificate by filling out an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” form. This form is then signed before two witnesses or through a notary.

A judge determines paternity in court when the man believed to be the father does not want to establish paternity voluntarily. Or, both parents can undergo genetic testing, and if the test proves the man to the genetic father, Child Support Services files an Administrative Order of Paternity. The order will add the father’s name to the birth certificate while avoiding a court appearance. Paternity of the children not only is needed to award child support, but it also allows for both parents to get a shared custody order from the courts and to have a legal say in decisions regarding the child.

How Reliable is the Estimate?

Even once paternity is established, and the numbers crunched,  a judge decides the final amount of child support awarded. The judge looks at the same parameters utilized in the Florida Child Support Calculator but also considers other factors when determining the final amount. For instance, the judge might increase the amount of support if medical and dental expenses are significantly higher than what the calculator estimates. The age of the child and school tuition can affect the amount. And the total available assets of each parent and the child can be a factor too.

Sometimes a parent’s income varies by season, such as a construction worker who works less during the winter months. In these instances, the judge may restructure the monthly support to reflect that. If more than 55% of a parent’s gross income is going toward child support, the court may make an adjustment. The judge will also examine the proposed parenting plan. If one parent refuses to become involved in the activities of the child, it could result in more support financially.

So the Florida Child Support Calculator can be a useful tool. You can access it here to give you an idea of what the support award might be. But getting a divorce, especially when children are involved, is a very complicated process. We’re here to help you navigate the legal issues through this difficult time.