In some ways, every Florida divorce is alike. The parties must divide their marital property according to state law and, if they have young children, must resolve questions of child custody and child support.
But, as the saying goes, money changes everything. For divorcing couples with a high net worth, property division can be highly complex. A high net worth can also affect child support.
Child support basics
It’s important to remember that the duty to pay child support doesn’t stem from the parents’ relationships to each other, it stems from each parent’s relationship to their child.
Under Florida law, every parent has a responsibility to pay for the care of their child. The state presumes that a parent who lives with the child is meeting this obligation by providing them with a home, food, clothing and other needs.
If the parent does not live with the child, they must still meet this obligation. They do this through paying child support.
To ensure that the parent meets this obligation, courts issue an enforceable child support order. If the parent fails to pay the required support, they can face many penalties, including wage garnishment, withholding of licenses and even, in some cases, a jail sentence.
The state uses a formula to calculate how much a parent must pay in child support based on the child’s needs, the parents’ ability to pay and how much time the child will spend living with each parent. Following a list of factors, the state arrives at a basic child support amount.
For wealthy parents
The basic child support amount is partly based on the ability of both parents to pay for the child’s upbringing. That means that, if both parents have a high net worth, one parent won’t necessarily be stuck paying all the bills.
Once the parents have the basic child support amount in hand, they have some room to negotiate. They can certainly agree that the paying parent will pay more than the basic amount. They may also be able to negotiate somewhat lower than the basic amount. However, generally speaking, because the child support obligation is between a parent and their child, generally speaking the two parents cannot decide that one of them will not have to pay child support.
For wealthy parents some of this negotiation may be more complex than for parents of more limited means. Because high-net-worth individuals tend to have income from multiple sources, the calculations may be more complex.
There may also be other concerns. For instance, the child support order may not take into account the full costs of private school tuition or extracurricular activities. And, since child support obligations generally end when the child graduates from high school, they don’t always take into account paying for college and beyond. Parents may wish to negotiate these issues as part of their divorce, and their solutions to these issues may affect the child support amounts.