Your Family Deserves The Absolute Best Schedule a Free Consultation

Can Florida Courts Deviate from Child Support Guidelines?

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 21, 2022

If you are considering getting a divorce but have children to care for, your financial or childcare concerns might be holding you back. You’ve done all of the calculations for alimony and child support payments, but it just doesn’t seem like enough money for you to properly care for your children. Or maybe, on the flip side, you’ve done the calculations and do not believe that you should have to pay the amount that Florida’s guidelines demand.

Is there any way to deviate from those guidelines? Can you get more money if you need it – or want to pay it? Can you ask to have your payments lowered – whether you’re the one receiving them or paying them?

Yes. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

As mentioned above, our state has specific guidelines in place to determine child support payments that are largely based on the income of each parent. However, in certain special circumstances, the court has been known to deviate from these guidelines.

How does it work?

When Florida Courts Can Deviate From Child Support Guidelines

Florida law says that after the court uses your income, assets, and so on to calculate child support, it has the legal ability to raise or lower that amount by 5%. (The court can also lower the amount by more than 5%, but there must be written reasons provided for why child support is being changed.) Also, you have to ask.

It starts with filing a motion to deviate from child support guidelines. In this document you will find a list of acceptable reasons for altering your child support amount. Some of these reasons only apply to either raising or lowering child support, while others may be used to ask for either change.

Acceptable reasons for deviating from child support guidelines include (but are not limited to):

  • Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses

  • Children have independent income (apart from supplemental security income)

  • Seasonal variations in one or both parents’ income or expenses

  • Age(s) of child(ren)

  • Child/children have special needs and associated extra expenses

  • Total available assets of obligee, obligor, and child(ren)

  • Parenting plan reduces or increases the typical amount of time that is spent with one parent

You should also know that the reasons that are listed on the motion are not the only reasons that a court will change a child support order. If the court believes that deviating from the guidelines is fair to both parties and is in the best interest of the child, then it has the power to make that decision without one of the reasons provided on the motion.

In the motion, you must also include a list of the expenses related to your child. It is important that you are thorough when filling it out. Do not neglect expenses like birthday parties and entertainment, grooming, gifts from your child to others, and recreational fees.

The more details you provide in this motion, the easier it will be for a judge to get a picture of your situation and why you may need to deviate from the suggested child support amount.

File This Motion As Soon As Possible

Like any motion that needs to be filed, we recommend filing a motion to deviate as soon as possible. Even if you do not have an exact number for how much child support you will be receiving, filling out the motion alongside your affidavit and other financial forms will help you itemize all of your expenses. You do not have to ask for a specific amount of child support on the motion, just more or less than what Florida’s general guidelines will demand of you.

It is also important to communicate with your ex about filing this motion. Only one party needs to file it, but the results will certainly have an impact on both of you and the budget you make during your parenting plan.

If one spouse cannot afford to pay child support, they can face contempt of court charges and serious consequences. The sooner you file this motion and speak to your ex, the sooner your budgets can be rearranged and you can focus on providing for your child.

Other Options for Changing Child Support Payments

If you have already started paying child support and are looking for a more drastic change than 5%, you do have additional options. Florida allows parents to file a motion to modify or terminate child support payments.

Since this change is obviously far more significant, you need a good reason to back up why doing so is necessary. Potential acceptable reasons may include losing your job, that your child’s expenses have increased, or simply that a judge has not reviewed your case in a number of years.

The bottom line is that it is possible to receive the financial assistance you need or provide the appropriate amount to your ex without breaking your budget. Want to learn more and make sure you are doing everything you can to fight for what you and your children deserve? Contact an affordable Florida family lawyer right now.