Child Support in Florida

Learn how to calculate child support in Florida and when a support award can be modified or terminated.

By , Retired Judge
Considering Divorce? We've helped 85 clients find attorneys today.
First Name is required
First Name is required

Like all states, Florida has guidelines to help parents and judges calculate a fair amount of child support in any particular case. The guidelines are based on the principles that both parents are legally obligated to support their children, and that children should receive a level of support based on a share of both parents' income, as if the family were still together.

Beyond those basics, however, calculating child support can be complicated.

Who Pays Child Support in Florida?

Usually, the parent who has the child less than half the time under the parenting plan will pay child support to the one who has the child most of the time (called the primary custodial parent in most states, although Florida law doesn't use that term). But that doesn't mean custodial parents are off the hook for their own support obligation. The law assumes they're already contributing a fair share by paying for housing, food, clothing, and other costs of raising children.

Calculating Child Support Under Florida's Guidelines

When you file for divorce (or file a separate proceeding for child support), you'll need to complete and submit a child support guidelines worksheet. The worksheet includes instructions for the calculations as you fill in information about your finances and parenting arrangements.

Both parents will also need to file financial affidavits (sworn written statements) with detailed information about income, expenses, assets, and liabilities (on either Form 902(b) or Form 902(c), depending on your income level).

The starting point for calculating child support under Florida's guidelines is to determine the children's minimum needs based on their parents' combined net incomes (gross income minus allowable deductions) and the number of children covered by the support order.

What Counts as Gross Income for Florida Child Support?

Under Florida's child support guidelines, gross income includes:

  • salaries or wages, overtime pay, tips, bonuses, commissions, and other similar payments
  • self-employment and other business and rental income (gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses)
  • interest and dividends
  • Social Security, disability, and workers' compensation benefits
  • pension, retirement, or annuity payments
  • unemployment compensation or reemployment assistance
  • income from royalties, trusts, or estates
  • spousal support (alimony), either received from a previous marriage or court-ordered in the current marriage
  • reimbursement for expenses or in-kind payments, but only as much as they reduce living expenses, and
  • recurring gains from property dealings.

If a judge finds that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the judge will impute income to that parent. Usually, the amount of imputed income will be based on the parent's recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community.

(Fla. Stat. § 61.30 (2023).)

How to Calculate Net Income

To arrive at net income, Florida allows the following deductions from gross income:

  • federal, state, and local income tax deductions, adjusted for the parents' actual filing status and allowable dependents and income tax liabilities
  • federal insurance contributions or self-employment tax
  • health insurance payments, not counting payments for the child's insurance coverage (which are part of the child support adjustments, discussed below)
  • mandatory union dues and retirement payments
  • court-ordered support for other children, as long as the parent is making those payments, and
  • spousal support (alimony) paid under a court order.

(Fla. Stat. § 61.30(3) (2023).)

Calculating the Basic Child Support Amount

Florida's child support worksheet includes a table that shows the basic (minimum) child support amounts for different income levels and numbers of children. There are special rules if the parents' combined monthly net income is below the minimum shown in the table ($800 per month, as of 2023) or above the maximum ($10,000 a month). (Fla. Stat. § 61.30(6) (2023).)

Calculating Each Parent's Share of the Basic Child Support Amount

The next step is to calculate each parent's share of the basic support amount, based on their share of the combined net income.

For example, here's how that calculation works if the parents' combined net monthly income is $5,000:

  • The basic child support amount for one child would be $1,000 (according to the guidelines chart in 2023).
  • To find each parent's share of that figure, divide each parent's income by the total combined income. So if one parent earns $3,000 a month, that parent would be responsible for 60% of the $1,000 support amount ($3,000 ÷ $5,000 = 60%). The other parent would be responsible for 40% of the support amount ($2,000 ÷ $5,000 = 40%).
  • Then convert the percentages to dollar amounts. The higher-earning spouse would be responsible for $600 per month in support (60% of $1,000), and the other spouse would be responsible for $400 per month.

Remember: This is just the basic minimum child support amount. As discussed below, other things go into the final calculation.

Additions and Adjustments to Basic Child Support in Florida

Florida's child support guidelines allow additions to the basic support amount for necessary child care, health insurance, and other medical expenses for the child. The calculations also are adjusted when both parents have the child for a significant amount of time.

Health and Child Care Needs

The following costs are added to the basic child support obligation in the guidelines:

  • payments for child care that's needed because of parents' employment, job searches, or education (as long as the education is intended to lead to employment or increased income)
  • the cost of court-ordered health insurance for the child (which must be included in all child support orders if it's available at a reasonable cost), and
  • medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses for the child that aren't covered by insurance.

As with the basic support obligation, each parent's share of these additions will be in proportion to their share of combined net income. (Fla. Stat. §§ 61.13(1)(b), 61.30(7), (8) (2023).)

How Time-Sharing Affects Child Support in Florida

Because the total costs of raising children are higher when both parents maintain separate households for the kids, Florida's guidelines require an adjustment in the support amount when the parenting plan calls for each parent to have the child (or children) for at least 20% of overnights in the year (or at least 73 nights of time-sharing). This adjustment must be applied whether the time-sharing arrangement is permanent or temporary.

The method for calculating this adjustment (known as the "gross-up method") can be complicated, but the child support worksheet will walk you through the steps. (Fla. Stat. § 61.30(1)(a), (11)(b) (2023).)

When Child Support May Be Different Than the Guidelines Amount

Florida's guidelines give judges the leeway to make other adjustments to the amount of child support under certain circumstances. The requirements are somewhat different, depending on how much the ordered amount differs from the amount calculated under the guidelines.

A judge may order an amount of child support that's up to 5% higher or lower than the guideline amount, after considering all of the relevant circumstances in the case, including:

  • the child's age, needs, and standard of living, and
  • each parent's financial status.

Although judges may order child support that deviates more than 5% from the guideline, they must explain in their order why using the guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances. When making that decision, judges must consider a long list of factors:

  • whether application of the guidelines would require a parent to pay more than 55% of gross income
  • whether the primary custodial parent's child-related expenses are reduced because the other parent has the child for a significant amount of time (but less than 20% of overnights per year)
  • the child's extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses
  • the child's age, taking into account the increased needs of older children
  • the child's special needs, such as costs related to a disability
  • any independent income the child has other than supplemental security income (SSI)
  • regular spousal support payments to a parent, as long as there's a demonstrated need for that support
  • seasonal variations in the parents' incomes or expenses
  • the parents' and child's total available assets
  • the impact of child-related tax credits and dependency exemptions
  • whether one parent's expenses have been reduced because that parent has refused to be involved in the child's activities, and
  • any other adjustment needed to achieve a fair result, such as the parents' reasonable and necessary expenses or debts.

(Fla. Stat. § 61.30(1)(a), (11)(a) (2023).)

If you want to get a child support order that's higher or lower than the guideline amount, you'll need to file a Motion to Deviate from Child Support Guidelines.

Can Parents Agree on a Child Support Amount?

Parents always have the option of agreeing between themselves on the amount of child support. But they'll have to submit their agreement to the court, and a judge won't approve it unless the amount of support in the agreement is in the child's best interests. If you've agreed to an amount of support that's different than the amount calculated under the guidelines (including the allowed adjustments), your agreement should spell out the reasons for the deviation, in line with the factors discussed above.

When Does Child Support End in Florida?

Under Florida law, child support orders issued on or after October 1, 2010, must call for the support payments to end when the child turns 18, unless the judge finds that the child is:

  • younger than 19
  • still in high school but reasonably expected to graduate before turning 19, and
  • actually dependent on the parents.

Parents may also agree to continue support beyond age 18, typically to help their kids through college. (Fla. Stat. § 61.13(1)(a) (2023).)

Florida has special rules and procedures to establish support for adult children who aren't able to support themselves because of a mental or physical condition that started before they turned 18. (Fla. § 61.1255 (2023).)

How to Apply for or Collect Child Support

If you're filing for divorce in Florida, you can request child support as part of that process. But you don't have to be going through a divorce to request child support. As long as you're the parent or caregiver of a child who needs support, you can apply through the Florida Department of Revenue.

Whenever Florida judges order child support, they must also issue an "income deduction order" that requires the paying parent's employer to withhold the support amount from that parent's salary. The employer will forward the money to the Florida Disbursement Unit, which will then send it to the parent receiving support. (Fla. Stat. § 61.1301(1)(a) (2023).)

Self-employed parents must pay court-ordered support directly to the disbursement unit. Even if you become unemployed, you must continue to make support payments unless a judge relieves you of that obligation (more on that below).

If you're having trouble collecting support payments, you can request assistance from the Florida Department of Revenue or go back to the court to enforce your child support order.

Can You Change Child Support?

You may ask a judge to modify child support, but you'll need to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the current order was issued. Some examples of changes that might justify modification:

  • one parent is earning significantly more or less than before
  • one parent has become permanently disabled, or
  • the parents have permanently changed their time-sharing arrangement.

Judges may find that the guidelines—as applied to the parents' current financial circumstances—qualify as a substantial change in circumstances, but only if the current guideline amount would be at least 15% or $50 different (whichever is greater) than the existing support order.

However, if a parent hasn't regularly exercised time-sharing under the parenting plan, that alone will be considered a substantial change of circumstances for modifying child support. (Fla. Stat. § 61.30(1)(b), (11)(c) (2023).)

Note that a parent's remarriage won't, by itself, be a reason to modify child support, and Florida law has strict rules about when child support may be modified because a parent is now supporting children from a new relationship. (Fla. Stat. § 61.30(12) (2023).)

As with an original child support order, you and the other parent may agree to a modification of your existing order. Here again, you'll need to submit your agreement to the court for approval.

But if you aren't able to work out an agreement, you should strongly consider speaking with a family law attorney. It can be difficult for non-lawyers to navigate the complex court rules for contested modification proceedings. An experienced lawyer can help you gather the evidence you'll need to win (or defeat) a modification request.

Considering Divorce?
Talk to a Divorce attorney.
We've helped 85 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you