Child Support and Alimony: Imputing income
A court may “impute” income to someone with a support obligation if he/ she is voluntarily under or un-employed. For example, if someone is only working part-time but the children are of school age, then this person may be under-employed. If someone voluntarily resigns from his job and opens up his own business with no current income, then this person may be voluntarily unemployed.
Florida has child support guidelines which are based on the parties’ respective incomes. Child support is not reduced by the level of one’s monthly expenses such as a car payment, utilities, rent, or credit card balances. If a parent is unemployed and is not contributing to the support of his or her minor child, then this person still has a support obligation which continues to grow / accrue. If the parent who owes the support has an earning capacity of “X”, then the court may calculate this person’s obligation as if he/ she were earning “X”. The burden of proving the parent’s ability to earn is on the parent who is owed the obligation. This can be shown through a variety of means including the retention of a vocational rehabilitative expert.
The same goes for alimony. A presumption of entitlement to alimony arises in long term marriages of 17 plus years. Again, if a spouse is all of a sudden voluntarily under- or unemployed, then he still has a support obligation based on his earning capacity. The court will look at his prior work history, qualifications and the local job market before imputing income to this person.
On the flip side, if a spouse is unemployed or doing the best that he can in light of the local market and is unable to find comparable employment, then he/ she may be entitled to a modification of his/ her support obligation. This person who owes the support would have to show a “substantial change(s)” in circumstance prior to the Court modifying the support obligation downward. I always tell people that tomorrow you and I will be a day older. This is a change but not substantial. Next week, you may win $100,000 in the lottery but this, too, is not substantial since you cannot retire on $100,000. One month from now, a spouse whose vocation requires the use of his arms/ legs, may lose the use of his arms/ legs and no longer work in his vocation. The latter would constitute a substantial change.
The Courts are very empathetic to spouses or parents who are owed a support obligation and will work towards enforcing their prior court orders. If you have any questions regarding your support obligation or enforcement of a support obligation, please feel free to give me a call for a free initial consultation.
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Florida's Child Support guidelines - Establishing the amount