Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Support

When a parent is self-employed or working for a family-owned business, it can be difficult to determine the parent’s true income for purposes of calculating child support. Much more scrutiny is required to make an accurate determination than the level of scrutiny required to assess a parent who earns W-2 income.

In the case J.A.D. v. K.M.A., the father testified that he was employed by a company owned by his mother. Evidence was presented at trial which indicated the father received in-kind benefits from the company such as use of a vehicle for personal reasons. A manager of the company testified she saw the father remove cash from a safe on three to four occasions over a two year period, and that she saw him write a check to himself in the amount of $2,000.00. An accountant hired by both parties concluded over $100,000 in cash withdrawals were taken from the company without backup documentation, but that some of those withdrawals could have been for business purposes.

As cited by the appellate opinion, “On appeal, the Father argues that the trial court erred in its determination of child support by (1) relying on and calculating the parties' gross annual incomes and not the parties' net incomes, (2) failing to include a child support guidelines worksheet in the final judgment, and (3) adding $40,628.46 to his income without making specific factual findings to support that addition.” The appellate court agreed with the father on all of these issues and reversed the trial court’s child support ruling.

First, the appellate court held, “The trial court erred by failing to make specific findings concerning each parent's net monthly income and relying only on each parent's gross monthly income.” Next, the court held it was error for the trial court to fail to include a child support guidelines worksheet since meaningful review of how the trial court arrived at the calculation cannot be accomplished without the worksheet. Last, the appellate court held, “Lastly, we agree that competent substantial evidence did not support the trial court's addition of $40,628.46 to the gross annual income figure the Father included in his sworn financial affidavit. [. . .] Notwithstanding the testimony and documents the trial court referenced in the final judgment, it is unclear how the trial court arrived at the $40,628.46 figure. As the Father asserts, it may be that the Father's income should not have been inflated by $40,628.46. Conversely, it may well be that the Father's income should have been increased by a much greater amount. This is something for the trial court to decide, and it must do so by making specific factual findings supporting the income it found.”

Child support guidelines are created using specific information. If you need a child support calculation completed in your case, contact a Miami child support lawyer. At a consultation, the lawyer can perform various calculation scenarios so you can see likely outcomes in your case.