How Does Child Support and Child Custody Work in Florida

How Does Child Support and Child Custody Work in Florida

Child support is enforced at the state and local level. In Florida, both parents are obligated to provide financial support to their children, whether they are married or not. There is a lot of misinformation about child support, and many people do not understand how child support works. This article will sort out how child support works in Florida, and how child custody is decided.

If you are navigating a divorce or looking to establish a child support agreement, it is possible to make arrangements through the court directly, without a lawyer. However, an attorney can be an extremely valuable resource, helping you through each step of the court system, and advocating on your behalf.


Child Support is Black and White – And There are Shades of Gray

By definition, child support is a payment from the higher-income parent to the lower-income parent to pay for basic living necessities. It can be paid by the mother or the father to the other parent Child support is determined by state statute and income formulas, with adjustments for:

  • Percentage of overnight stays with each parent
  • Total monthly child(ren)’s health insurance costs
  • Other monthly expenses.


If you or the other parent wishes to reach a child support agreement that is more or less than the child support guidelines, you must complete and file Motion to Deviate from Child Support Guidelines, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.943. An attorney can help you fill out and submit this six-page form and required supporting documents.


Florida’s Parenting Plan

When Florida courts are asked to deal with divorces and custody agreements for minor children, you must submit a parenting plan, describing how the parents will share and take care of a child. Your parenting plan will include:

  • How parental rights and responsibilities will be shared
  • How time will be shared, such as weekly exchange, three days with one parent, four days with the other , and the reversed the following week
  • How the child’s health care will be paid for
  • How changes to the child’s schedule will be handled
  • How the children will communicate with the other parent during time-sharing (FaceTiming, phone calls, etc.)
  • How parents will communicate with each other.


Recognizing the unique needs of different families, Florida has four types of parenting plans:

  • The basic plan
  • The long distance plan (to be used if one parent lives more than 50 miles away)
  • The highly structured plan (to be used if parents are unable to agree and need help communicating civilly)
  • The safety-focused plan (to be used if children are at risk for domestic violence, child abuse, and substance abuse risks).


The instructions to Florida’s parenting plans stress two important points: 

  • Putting the best interest of our children must come first
  • Ending the parents’ relationship with each other is NOT the end of their child-parent relationship.


Florida recognizes that what works for one family won’t necessarily work for another. Working with a lawyer can help you present a clean legal package, so that the court can decide the best case scenario for your child or children. Sara Jones Law, P.A. can help you work out your parenting plan, including your parenting time schedules in your parenting plan package.


Florida’s Best Interest Factors

Florida is sometimes referred to as a 50/50 state, and courts are known to favor equal time sharing. However, there is nothing in any statute that says parents must split parenting time 50/50, and an equal time split is not mentioned. The courts consider many factors in determining what are the best interests of a child. There are 20 factors the court considers- linked here. The first one is significant and references the need to encourage a close relationship with the child and the other parent.

The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.

The court wants to see that despite any emotional conflicts, you have done your best to facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent. Showing that you believe the hailed will benefit from a meaningful relationship with both parents, will reflect favorably on you. Of course not every child benefits from time with both parents. If there is evidence of abuse, neglect, or violence, the court will specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was taken into account in considering the best interests of the child.

Some of the other factors on the state’s list include the moral fitness of the parents, the mental and physical health of the parents, and any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan.


Child Support Payments are Not Set In Stone

It is unrealistic to think that you and your child’s other parent’s current financial situation will not change in the years to come. There are a number of instances where child support might need to be reevaluated. For example, if one parent becomes unemployed and loses their employer-based health insurance plan, the other parent may cover the child under their plan. If you have a child support agreement and need to make changes to it, a lawyer can help you facilitate this.


Call Our Florida Family Law Attorneys for Expert Guidance

At Sara Jones Law, P.A., we are here to offer support, guidance, resources, and solutions to families. We know that custody, child support, and visitation are important issues to resolve. If you’re ready to take the first step, call us to discuss your legal rights and your available options with our team.

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