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How do courts calculate child support obligations?

Is determining child support obligations more difficult for unmarried parents? Our family law firm has helped both married and unmarried parents navigate their child support obligations under Florida law. Although the best interest of the child standard is constant, the procedures are slightly different.

For married parents, the process of calculating child support typically begins after the couple files for divorce with the local county court. However, there are instances where married parents may simply file for child support, without filing a petition for dissolution of marriage.

Unmarried parents, in contrast, must file a paternity case to resolve their child support obligations. Under this approach, the father may either admit to paternity or submit to a court ordered DNA test. Without additional evidence, the mere fact that a man's name is listed on a child's birth certificate may not establish paternity.

In all situations, child support is intended to provide for the fundamental needs of a child, including housing, food and medicine, and education-related expenses. However, there is not a fixed amount per child. Rather, child support calculations involve factors such as each parent's income, the total number of children, and the costs for a particular child's daycare, education, insurance and/or medical care.

Notably, child support obligations can also be revisited. If one parent experiences a significant financial event, like losing a job, a modification may be requested from the court. If a parent falls behind on his or her child support payments, there are also legal enforcement options. A court enforcement order might garnish a parent's wages or take other measures.

Source:, "Child Support," copyright 2017, Florida Justice Technology Center

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