Most residents of Central Florida are aware that the state legislature has enacted a law that establishes minimum levels determining the amount of child support that must be paid to the parent having physical custody of the child. This law, colloquially known as child support “guidelines,” has a number of exceptions and qualifications that can affect a court’s final determination of the amount of support that must be paid.

The statute “presumptively” establishes the child support guidelines as the amount that the court “shall order” in an initial proceeding involving child support. The court may vary the guideline amount up or down by 5% after considering “all relevant factors.” The relevant factors include: the needs of the child; the child’s age; the child’s standing in life and standard of living; and the parents’ respective financial status.

The statute also provides extensive instructions for completing the form used to calculate the level of support. The law provides a detailed instruction for calculating income and living expenses. The court may impute income to either parent if, in the court’s opinion, that parent has voluntarily accepted a lower level of earning in order to obtain a increased level of support payments or, conversely, has accepted a lower earning level to obtain a reduced support obligation.

Each parent must submit a form containing all of the information required by the statute. These forms are submitted to the court and used to calculate an appropriate level of support payments as required by the statutory table. The table prescribes a level of support based upon the parents’ combined monthly net income and the number of children receiving such support. Each parent’s share of support is his or her pro rata share of the couple’s monthly net income. The statute also mandates certain adjustments to the division of the support obligation for items such as day care and health insurance coverage.