If Your Florida Parenting Plan Places Your Child With You More Than 20% of the Time, You May Owe a Reduced Amount of Child Support

When you are in court on a paternity case, two of the main legal things that you’ll likely be concerned with are timesharing and child support. One of the key things to keep in mind is that these two elements should be interconnected with one another; which is to say that, if you are the parent paying child support but you also have the child for a significant amount of time, then the law says that latter fact should entitle you to pay the child’s other parent a smaller amount of child support each month. To make sure the child support you’ve been ordered to pay is fair, based on the totality of your circumstances, be sure you have representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

How does that reduction process work? A recent case from Palm Beach County offers a good example. K.W. was a father living in North Carolina, and R.B., the mother, lived in West Palm Beach. After the mother filed a paternity petition, the court set up a parenting plan. The plan called for one schedule in even-numbered years and a different schedule in odd-numbered years. This type of plan is not uncommon, as it allows each parent to, for example, have the child for 1/2 of the summers and also 1/2 of Christmases.

This child spent 84 overnights with the father in even-numbered years, but fewer than 73 in odd-numbered years. This was because the plan dictated that the father was to have the child for summer break and winter break in even-numbered years, but not in odd-numbered years. As a percentage, that meant the child spent 77% of the time with the mother, and 23% with the father in even-numbered years. In odd-numbered years, the child spent less than 20% of the year with the father.

Additionally, the judge ordered the father to pay $750 per month in child support, which was the standard amount according to the Florida child support guidelines.

What ‘substantial’ timesharing is and how it impacts child support

As a layperson, you might not spot anything amiss about this judgment but, fortunately for the father, his legal team did. In Florida, if you are the parent who pays child support, but you also have what the law defines as a “substantial” amount of timesharing, then you are entitled to pay a reduced amount of child support. In fact, once you’ve shown that you have a substantial amount of timesharing, that reduction of child support is mandatory under Florida law.

Florida says that any amount of timesharing that’s at least 20% is substantial timesharing. Since K.W. had the child 23% of the time in even-numbered years, he had substantial timesharing as defined by the law in those years. That meant that K.W. was obliged to pay the $750-per-month sum in odd-numbered years but was entitled to have his child support reduced to a lower amount in even-numbered years. Specifically, the court must apply something called the “gross up method” to calculate the lower amount of support the supporting parent owes.

This outcome, of course, means that the father’s child support obligation was different in even-numbered years than in odd-numbered years. In cases where that happens – like this one – the trial judge has the option of ordering the supporting parent to pay the same amount every month, with that amount being an average of the odd-numbered-year amount and the even-numbered-year amount. (So, for example, if the father owed $750 per month in odd-numbered years and $600 per month in even-numbered years, the judge could simply order the father to pay $675 per month all the time.)

Whatever kind of timesharing schedule you and your child’s other parent have, you should also have a child support obligation that is reflective of the substantial time you spend with your child. To make that you’re getting a parenting plan and a child support order that are genuinely fair and truly foster the best interests of your child, count on the knowledgeable South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. for the effective legal advocacy you and your family deserve. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.