FL Child Support: It’s Cut and Dried – Except When It’s Not

Thanks to detailed child support guidelines in Florida, child support is one of the more cut and dried aspects of a family court case, be it a divorce or paternity action.

But even so, there are certain issues that do-it-yourselfers or DOR-supplicants need to be aware of.

Too often, clients come in with child support calculations that they are so confident of, they already (verbally) agreed on numbers with the other parent. Typically, they used a so-called online child support calculator to arrive at the numbers.

Of course, almost anything parties can agree on is great. Almost.

But child support is a duty owed to a child. Except perhaps in extraordinary circumstances, it should not be waived, compromised or deferred by the custodial parent on behalf of the child.

Not even out of ignorance.

Florida’s child support statute allows for deviations from the guidelines under various circumstances.

The grounds for deviations are rarely (if ever) taken into account by so-called online child support calculators. Worse, they usually don’t even alert their users to considerations which are not factored into the online child support calculators.

This can be a recipe for disaster for many kids.

One all-too-common situation is children with disabilities or children with special needs. Special needs kids and disabled kids often require a variety of physical and other therapies, as well as special educational and other needs.

Although outside the standard child support guidelines calculations and online child support calculators, these needs may be taken into account in deviations from the standard guidelines.

More specifically, the statute allows deviations for:

“1. Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses. …

“6. 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 the fulfilling of those needs will cause the support to exceed the proposed guidelines.”

This is especially important for the custodial parents of special needs children or disabled children because the special demands of parenting them may significantly limit their ability to “throw themselves into their career” so as to earn more money to support their family.

The bottom line is that parents of children with special needs or children with disabilities should not cut corners or jump on child support offers prematurely at the ultimate expense of the children and themselves.

The court is there to protect the interests of the children subject to the divorce or paternity action, especially those most in need and deserving of advocacy and protection.

Read more in Florida Statutes, Section 61.30 (11)(a) and (b)(8).