South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday June 2, 2020
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July 2017 - Volume 14 - Issue 1

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Child Support for Highly Compensated Professionals

You are fortunate. You’ve reached a high point in your ability to earn a living from your profession. On the other hand, your marriage has fallen apart and you are contemplating divorce. You know you will have to pay child support for the children of your marriage, but how much? You’ve heard of the Florida child support guidelines and maybe had a look online at §61.30, Fla. Stat., which is where you can find those guidelines.

You have two minor children of this marriage. You make $800,000 per year after taxes. Your soon-to-be ex-spouse makes $40,000 after taxes. A quick reading of the guidelines chart tells you that your child support will be at least $6,391 per month. Yikes! That is highway robbery, you say. Alimony in disguise! The children can’t possibly need, use or spend that amount. You are right, and there is a remedy.
Presumptive Child Support Guidelines vs. Reasonable Support.
 
There are two principles in play.
First, the law is clear that a child is entitled to share in the good fortune of his or her parents. If at least one of the parents is successful, the child should be able to go on trips, have nice toys, be driven in a decent car, live in a respectable neighborhood and go to good schools. That is true even if the former spouse would not be able to afford them and literally goes along for the ride.
 
The second principle is that child support should not exceed a reasonable amount, taking into account the first principle. The courts determine that amount by using the statutory guidelines as a starting point. Section 61.30 allows the court to deviate by 5% up or down (the “presumptive guideline support amount”). However, Florida appellate courts have interpreted the statute as permitting a party to show that the presumptive guideline support amount is inappropriate and can be adjusted to accomplish a reasonable lifestyle for the children.
 
The actual expenditures for the children’s needs are evidence that the court will weigh in determining whether to vary the support amount from the guideline formula. Thus, the highly-compensated professional is well advised to keep watch for extravagant spending. That is not to say that the children should not have a lifestyle consistent with your earnings, but it is to say that extravagance should not become the norm, especially late in a failing marriage.(1) A child is only entitled to share in the good fortune of his parent consistent with an appropriate lifestyle.
 
You don’t want to pay the money to your ex-spouse - apply for a guardian.
You do not want excessive child support to be alimony in disguise. Maybe you want to put the excessive support payments into a trust or pay it to a guardian. Anything but to give all that money to your ex-spouse so he or she can buy expensive cars, clothes and a new house. Or even worse, spend it on a new significant other.
 
The good news is that there is authority for the appointment of a guardian of the property to protect a portion of the child support payment that the court determines not to be needed for the children’s day-to-day custodial expenses. Thus, for example, the court could award $6,000 per month in child support, of which $3,000 per month is to be paid to the former spouse and $3,000 is to be paid to a guardian.
 
A cautionary note.
Divorce cases are fact-intensive and every case has its own nuances. Judges have a great deal of discretion in circumstances like those discussed here and that discretion is rarely disturbed on appeal. We like our clients to have happy marriages rather than the alternative of spending time with us. Enjoy your good fortune but remember that there may be consequences from an extravagant lifestyle if the alternative rears its ugly head.
 
 
 

Norman Segall, Esq., Partner at Lubell Rosen can be reached at (305) 665-3425 or nss@lubellrosen.com.

 
(1) This is not to say that extravagance before the final months will not be considered. It will be. The lifestyle of the marriage is also important in alimony considerations.
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