I often hear from potential clients after they have appeared in court and had their child support calculated. After doing some online research, they went to the hearing without a lawyer. They thought they had a rough estimate of the child support they would be ordered to pay. However, the Florida Child Support Calculator that the Courts use to calculate child support is not even remotely similar to the online calculators. The most common reasons for the difference in child support amounts are:
- The number of nights that each parent spends with their child(ren) is not considered in many online calculators. If you are going to be paying child support and you will have your child(ren) for more than 73 nights per year, then the number of nights is a very important factor in the child support calculation. Simply, if you are the minority time sharing parent, then the more nights you spend with your child(ren), the lower your child support will be. If you are the majority time sharing parent, then the more nights you have your child(ren), the more you can expect to receive in child support.
- Most online calculators ask for each parent’s net income. Even the free forms published by the Supreme Court of Florida ask for net incomes. However, the Courts want to know gross incomes. The Court calculator then calculates your taxes to determine your net income. Consider this example: Suppose you bring home $4,000 per month. When you file your tax return, the IRS gives you a $6,000 refund. If you use an online calculator, you would likely input your income as $4,000.00 per month. The court’s calculator would likely use a number closer to $4,500.00 per month. It will consider your tax refund as income. Obviously, the extra $500.00 per month will only increase your child support.
- The court’s calculator will also increase your income if it thinks either (or both) parents receive (or are eligible for) various tax credits. These credits include the Earned Income Credit and the Child Care Credit.
My Florida Child Support Calculator aims to correct these differences the following ways:
- The calculator considers how many nights each parent spends with the child(ren).
- This calculator asks for your gross income.
- The calculator computes your federal income tax based on your filing status (married, single, head of household, or married filing separately).
- This calculator asks you to input your total annual tax credits – if you have any.
In my nearly 20 years of family law experience, not once has a client (or potential client) used the Court’s calculator themselves. This is most likely because they did not know there was such a program and because the program costs about $600.00 per year to use.
My Florida Child Support Calculator is FREE. You don’t need my permission to use it. You don’t need to send me your email address to use it. If you want to send me the results, you can – but you certainly do not have to.