Miscalculation of Child Support Owed by Active Duty Military Parent

In this week’s family law appellate blog, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court for miscalculating the child support owed by a father who is on active duty in the United States Army. The case is Knapp v. Knapp, Case No. 1D17-2869 (filed Feb. 28, 2019).

Child Support Error

In the trial court, the father testified that he is guaranteed only 30 days of leave per calendar year but would have additional days when not deployed overseas. He was to deploy soon.

The final judgment ordered timesharing during the father’s 30 days of leave and ordered that he should make best efforts to take his leave while the children are not in school. In addition to dividing time between the parents during school breaks, the trial court found that the father would receive additional leave days from “time to time” when not deployed, and the parties should work together to allow timesharing during these times. The trial court calculated child support on the basis of the children spending 120 overnights with the father and 245 with the mother. 

The mother argued that basing child support on the father spending 120 overnights with the children was unsupported by his testimony, as well as the final judgment’s timesharing provisions. The appellate court agreed, holding that while it is possible for the father to spend more than 30 overnights with the children, there was no evidence supporting a number four times his guaranteed leave. The 1st DCA reversed, holding that the trial court had to correct the father’s child support obligation by using a timesharing figure supported by competent, substantial evidence. 

Appellate Take Away

A trial court cannot base its child support decision on how many nights a parent may have the child, if things work out the way the parents hopes. The decision must be based on competent, substantial evidence in the record.

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