Joint Custody & Child Support

by Lusia from Center Hill, Florida, Sumter County

My fiance and his ex wife have one child together. They both agreed to joint custody of their son having him half the year every year for a week on a week off.

Their divorce papers states they both agree to no child support.

The mother files for state benefits (food stamps and Medicaid) and has child support enforced.

Now other fathers who have joint custody are saying there is a new law since January of this year stating there is no more child support to be paid if parents have split joint custody. Is this true?

Answer to Florida Child Custody Question

Dear Lusia,

You are correct in the idea that a new child support law went into effect in January of 2011.

What is not correct is the idea that joint custody automatically means there will be no child support awarded to either parent.

In fact, many people already paying child support could find that the new law drastically reduces the amount already being paid, but it does not eliminate the need for child support.

The biggest change in the law is the way child support is calculated. As long as a parent has the child for at least 20 percent of the overnights, then a tiered structure modifies child support calculations to lower payments in order to account for the time-sharing.

For example, a typical time-sharing schedule leaves one parent getting the
kids every other weekend for two or three overnights and some holidays.

This could account for around 100 overnights per year, or 27 percent. Under the old system, the type of arrangement would not qualify for the tiered approach, but under the new system, it does.

Since your scenario indicates that the mother is now applying for child support even though she previously agreed to no child support, this may qualify as a "significant change" that may make it necessary for her to petition for support.

In the determination of which parent pays child support, both incomes are taken into account as well as the time-sharing percentage.

If your fiancé does not wish to pay child support, he could petition for full custody of the child.

If either of you are unsure what your best option is, you should consult with an attorney prior to attending a child support hearing.

Notice: We provide these answers to the general public and our website visitors as a means to further their online legal research. These answers are merely suggestions and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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