Court of Appeals Considers Imputed Income in Child Support Calculation
Calculating monthly alimony and child support payments can be a challenge when the spouse that the court has designated as the paying spouse is unemployed. Florida’s Court of Appeal for the Second District recently issued an opinion in the case titled Back v. Back, which discussed when it is appropriate for a court to impute income to an unemployed parent. Learn more about the case, and when a court can impute income, below.
The couple at the center of Back v. Back had been scheduled to begin the court hearing on the dissolution of their marriage on June 19, 2013. Only two weeks before, the husband had been fired from a position he held as an insurance agent, and would be receiving a modest severance check each month from that employer going forward. While he still held one part-time job, his monthly income was to become $1719. Nevertheless, the trial court imputed an income of $140,000 to the husband when calculating his child support obligation. The husband appealed this decision.
Imputing income is the process of determining what a spouse or parent is capable of earning when that party either has no income or is earning substantially less than that which they’re able to earn, and using that imputed income to calculate the payment the spouse should either receive or pay in support. There are a number of circumstances where a court might impute income to a party to a divorce or child custody determination. Commonly, when a court is determining how much the paying spouse’s monthly alimony obligation will be, and the receiving spouse is unemployed, the court will impute income to the receiving spouse. The higher the imputed income, the smaller the amount of alimony that spouse will receive. Under certain circumstances, a court will impute income to a paying spouse who is either underemployed or unemployed, especially where the court believes that the lack of earnings is in some way within that spouse’s control. However, where the court determines that a spouse is involuntarily unemployed, then that court should not impute income to that spouse.
In the case at hand, the Court of Appeals determined that the trial court had made an error by imputing income to the husband. The wife had argued that the decision regarding imputed income should stand, as the husband had very recently been earning the amount imputed to him. The husband had also testified at the time of the hearing that he had several interviews lined up, though he had not yet been offered any positions. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court should recalculate the husband’s child support payment based on his actual income, rather than his imputed income.
If you are in need of skilled and effective legal representation during your Florida divorce or child custody dispute, contact the Pensacola offices of Crystal Collins Spencer for a consultation at 850-912-8080, with additional offices in Sandestin (850-424-6683) and Fort Walton (850-200-4652).