In a divorce, there are many decisions that must be made, either by the court or by the parties. Such decisions include property division as well as decisions involving children. One such matter, child support, can lead to conflict and cause ongoing litigation. Parties should ensure that child support is properly determined and supported by evidence.
Exter v. Diodonet- Molina
A recent family law case in Florida, Exter v. Diodonet-Molina concerned a proceeding for child support. In the initial proceedings, the court ordered the father to pay a certain amount of money each month. Mr. Exter argued that the lower court had failed to properly determine his net income. He further argued that the final judgment was devoid of the court’s findings that supported the bases of the income used to determine his child support payments. The Court of Appeals agreed. The Court found that child support must always be based on competent and substantial evidence of net income. Furthermore, the evidence and findings used to determine net income must be included and outlined in the Final Judgment. The Judgment in this case lacked these important information. As such, the case was remanded back to the lower court to make such explicit factual findings.
How Child Support is Determined
Absent a separation agreement, an award of child support is based on the guidelines set out in Florida Statute 61.30. Under this statute, a determination of child support is generally based upon both the number of children involved in the divorce, as well as the combined net monthly income of both parents. When considering what is included in a parent’s income, the court looks to several forms of income, including, but not limited to:
-Bonuses, tips, and other similar payments;
-Social Security benefits;
-Spousal support (alimony) received from a previous marriage; and
-Pension, retirement, or annuity payments.
The court will impute monthly income if it finds that a party is voluntarily decreasing his or her income. This occurs when a party refuses to take gainful employment. When this occurs, the court assigns income the party would have earned had he or she been gainfully employed.
While these guidelines do provide for a precise dollar amount to be awarded, under Florida Statute 61.30 the court does have the discretion to alter the award plus or minus 5% based on certain factors, including:
-The needs of the child/children;
-The age of the child/children;
-Station in life;
-Standard of living; and
-The financial status and ability of each parent.
If the court wishes to provide for an award that varies greater than 5% from the guidelines, then the court must issue a written explanation stating why adhering to the guidelines is unjust or inappropriate.
Call an Orlando Attorney
Divorces can be a complex and stressful event in a person’s life. The laws and systems that regulate divorces, however, are put in place to protect all parties involved from injustice caused by the court. In order to avoid such events from happening, it is important to have a skilled attorney at your side. If you are considering getting divorced, or your spouse has filed for divorce, then call a dedicated, skilled attorney at The Law Office of Natalie D. Hall, PA, for a case evaluation.