The schedule for determining the amount of child support, presumed to be the amount a trial judge awards under section 61.30(6), is clearly rebuttable. The trial court is given the specific authority to order payment of child support which varies more than five percent from the schedule upon a written finding or specific finding on the record explaining why ordering payment of such guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate. § 61.30(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (1993). Furthermore, in determining child support, the trial court is to consider section 61.30(11)(k), Florida Statutes (1993), which allows for an equitable adjustment of the minimum child support obligation based upon the facts and circumstances of a particular case.
Divorcing? Need help? Call now to schedule a consultation! (904)-353-7733
A trial court is to begin its determination of child support by accepting the statutorily mandated guideline as the correct amount. The court is then to evaluate from the record the statutory criteria of the needs of the child, including age, station in life, and standard of living, the financial status and ability of each parent, and any other relevant factors. If the trial court then concludes that the guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate and also determines that the child support amount should vary plus or minus five percent from the guideline amount, the trial court must explain in writing or announce a specific finding on the record as to the statutory factors supporting the varied amount. Absent an abuse of discretion as to the amount of the variance, the trial court’s determination will not be disturbed on appeal if the calculation begins with the guideline amount and the variation is based upon the statutory factors.
The paradox of requiring a parent to overpay “needs and expenses” for a child, as Judge Harris points out in his majority opinion. The difficulty is in part semantical, and in part practical. The crux of the difficulty is settling on whose standard of living determines the “needs” of this child.
In this case, the mother is raising the child on a much lower standard of living than would be established by the father, if the child were living at his current lifestyle [as a professional athlete] of $ 266,926.00 gross income per month. He could well afford, for example, a full time nanny, housekeepers, international travel, residence in a mansion with high attendant expenses, and transportation in expensive automobiles–a portion of which could be allocated to this child. These expenses could easily equate to the $ 5,000.00 per month found appropriate by the trial court. However, the mother is not able, in this case, to live at that standard of living. She must provide for herself and her other two children. They cannot benefit from the child support paid for this child, although the mother tried to do so, and has been properly reprimanded by the trial court for that effort. At her standard of living, the trial court found that only $ 2,000.00 was actually being spent on this child. However, if the father’s child support obligations are limited to this level, the child will not share in her father’s much higher standard of living and lifestyle. Clearly the “needs” of this child should not be solely based on what the mother can afford to spend on her, consistent with the mother’s much lower standard of living. That also would be inequitable.
What are the laws on guardians?
Only when the necessity for a legal guardianship of the property has been proven and a legal guardian appointed by the probate court in accordance with chapter 744, Florida Statutes (1997), can the trial court use a guardian to protect the minor’s assets. The trial court is not to order any portion of the child support paid into a trust unless a legal guardian has been appointed. Finley v. Scott, 707 So. 2d 1112 (Fla. 1998
Fletcher & Phillips is a divorce and child support law firm in Jacksonville, Florida. Over 35 years of experience combines to prepare us for Trial litigation, divorce negotiation and mediation. Let us put our experience to work for you!