Joint Custody and Child Support

It used to be a given that following a divorce, the mother would retain physical custody of the children. This meant that the non-custodial parent, usually the father, was the one who paid child support for shelter, food, and general necessities.

Times have changed. These days, joint custody, with both mother and father sharing equal custody, is becoming more common. Many parents wonder how this fifty-fifty arrangement affects child support, and some are under the mistaken impression that child support laws no longer apply. A shared parenting schedule still involves a child support arrangement, but it will be shared by both parents. The goal is to provide the child which the same standard of living – or as close as possible – as he or she was accustomed to pre-divorce.

Calculating Child Support

In the State of Florida, both parents are responsible for child support. An important factor in determining which parent pays what portion is their respective income. When the support amount is determined by the court, the court will calculate the percentage of each parent’s support obligation according to his or her income and other financial resources.

Another way to determine child support is the number the nights or actual time the child spends with each parent. Issues that will also factor into joint custody support payment are healthcare costs, daycare, insurance, tax deductions, and the child’s basic monthly expenses.

Can there be No Child Support?

A Florida court cannot award “no support.” However, while probably rare, there are instances of joint custody when there is no child support due. This can happen when both parents earn the same income, spend approximately the same amount of time with the child, and have agreed in the custody agreement that neither one owes the other child support. In such a case, some courts may agree that no child support payments need to be made.

When is Child Custody NOT Fifty-Fifty?

Most courts are in favor of joint custody since having a relationship with both parents is deemed to be in the best interest of the child. That may not always be the case, however, and parents need to be aware that a custody agreement can be modified by the court. The agreement is not written in stone and may not always reflect the child’s best interests.

Reasons for modifying a joint custody agreement can be a parental history of abuse and/or neglect, substance abuse, or mental health issues. 

Joint custody is assumed to be in the best interest of the child, but there are circumstances when that is simply not the case. If one parent is incarcerated or has relocated outside the child’s home state, the other parent will be awarded sole physical custody.

However, even if one parent has primary physical custody, the court will likely approve and encourage interaction with the other parent to allow a positive relationship to develop.

Payment of Child Support

In the State of Florida, the parents can agree to how the exchange of child support will happen. Parents have the option of requesting the Court for an Income Withholding Order (IWO), which requires the employer of the parent paying child support to deduct the child support amount from that parent’s paycheck. With an IWO, all payments are made to the State of Florida Disbursement Unit, which tracks all payments – and all non-payments. 


In the event of a divorce, the Florida courts make every attempt to provide parents with joint custody of their children, and both parents are responsible for child support payments. Just how these payments are calculated is determined by several factors, and it is best to discuss the situation with a Florida family law attorney.

Keep in mind that the term “parents” is not limited to couples who were married. Single parents (i.e., parents who were never married) share the same type of responsibility for their child as do divorced parents.

The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.

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