In cases where a party is unemployed or underemployed, an argument can be made to impute income for purposes of calculating alimony and/or child support.
Pursuant to Florida Statutes §61.30(2)(b):
“Monthly income shall be imputed to an unemployed or underemployed parent if such unemployment or underemployment is found by the court to be voluntary on that parent’s part, absent a finding of fact by the court of physical or mental incapacity or other circumstances over which the parent has no control. In the event of such voluntary unemployment or underemployment, the employment potential and probable earnings level of the parent shall be determined based upon his or her recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community if such information is available. If the information concerning a parent’s income is unavailable, a parent fails to participate in a child support proceeding, or a parent fails to supply adequate financial information in a child support proceeding, income shall be automatically imputed to the parent and there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent has income equivalent to the median income of year-round full-time workers as derived from current population reports or replacement reports published by the United States Bureau of the Census. However, the court may refuse to impute income to a parent if the court finds it necessary for that parent to stay home with the child who is the subject of a child support calculation or as set forth below:
1. In order for the court to impute income at an amount other than the median income of year-round full-time workers as derived from current population reports or replacement reports published by the United States Bureau of the Census, the court must make specific findings of fact consistent with the requirements of this paragraph. The party seeking to impute income has the burden to present competent, substantial evidence that:
a. The unemployment or underemployment is voluntary; and
b. Identifies the amount and source of the imputed income, through evidence of income from available employment for which the party is suitably qualified by education, experience, current licensure, or geographic location, with due consideration being given to the parties’ time-sharing schedule and their historical exercise of the time-sharing provided in the parenting plan or relevant order.
2. Except as set forth in subparagraph 1., income may not be imputed based upon:
a. Income records that are more than 5 years old at the time of the hearing or trial at which imputation is sought; or
b. Income at a level that a party has never earned in the past, unless recently degreed, licensed, certified, relicensed, or recertified and thus qualified for, subject to geographic location, with due consideration of the parties’ existing time-sharing schedule and their historical exercise of the time-sharing provided in the parenting plan or relevant order.
(c) Public assistance as defined in §409.2554 shall be excluded from gross income.”
In Bronson v. Bronson, 793 So.2d 1109 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001), the Court imputed income to a party who had lost their job due to excessive absenteeism. The Court noted that a claim that a spouse has arranged his financial circumstances so as to avoid paying the payee spouse is a valid matter to be considered by the trial court in determining the payor’s real ability to pay. See Smith v. Smith, 737 So.2d 641, 644 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). In such a situation, an award of alimony entirely exhausting the husband’s actual income may be a proper exercise of the trial court’s discretion. Maddux v. Maddux, 495 So.2d 863 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986). See also Avery v. Avery, 548 So.2d 865 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989).
In Rabbath v. Farid, 4 So.3d 778 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009), the Court cited to prior decisions to note that the child support guidelines require income to be imputed on a monthly basis to an unemployed or underemployed parent, where the parent’s work status is found to be voluntary rather than the result of circumstances beyond the parent’s control. See § 61.30(2)(b), Fla. Stat. (2005); Smith, 737 So.2d at 643, 645. In such instances of voluntary underemployment, the statute states:
[T]he employment potential and probable earnings level of the parent shall be determined based upon his or her recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community; however, the court may refuse to impute income to a primary residential parent if the court finds it necessary for a parent to stay home with the child.
So long as these statutory factors are properly taken into account, the trial court has discretion to impute income in the amount the parent was earning before voluntarily reducing his or her income. Smith, 737 So.2d at 645.
The burden is on the party wanting to impute income to prove the amount that the Court should impute. McNeal Legal can help a party apply the current law to their facts to determine if imputation of income is available, and what amount is possible.
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