Imputed Income and Support Payments
In a Florida divorce, child support and alimony are generally awarded based on each spouse’s need and ability to pay. Thus, if one spouse has a need for financial support, and the other spouse makes enough income to be able to provide that support, the court will generally order child or spousal support. Unfortunately, sometimes a spouse who thinks that he or she has been ordered to pay too much support will quit a job or take a lower-paying job in order to reduce his or her support payments. When that can be proven, a judge will impute income to that spouse to avoid injustice to the other spouse.
If you have any questions about your spouse’s income and how child support or alimony will be calculated, you should contact a family law attorney today.
When a court imputes income , it means that the court assumes that a spouse has a certain amount of income, regardless of whether or not that is, in fact, true. The court presumes that the spouse is capable of earning more than he or she claims to be earning or is actually earning at the time. Courts will impute income when one spouse has underreported his or her income or has voluntarily reduced his or her earnings.
The court can impute income on its own initiative, or it may do so at one spouse’s request. The court will only impute income after a hearing, in which the allegedly dishonest spouse has the opportunity to be heard by a judge. If one spouse has requested that income be imputed, he or she must demonstrate that the income ought, in fact, to be imputed, and in what amount the court should impute income.
Income will be imputed based on either the spouse’s voluntary unemployment or the spouse’s voluntary underemployment.
A spouse is deemed to be voluntarily unemployed when he or she is capable of working but chooses not to. This may occur when a spouse voluntarily leaves a job without a good reason. A person will also be deemed to be voluntarily unemployed if he or she purposefully acts in such a way as to get fired, for example, by not showing up to work.
A person is voluntarily underemployed when he or she could have a better-paying job, but instead chooses less lucrative employment. This can be shown by demonstrating that the spouse’s job is below his or her education level, or by showing other reasons. For example, a person may be voluntarily underemployed if he or she rejects a promotion, voluntarily reduces working hours, or puts off a bonus or raise.
In determining the amount of income to impute, courts will consider evidence including past tax returns, pay stubs, employment records, and professional qualifications. Courts may also examine Department of Labor statistics and other official information to make estimates about a person’s career path and earning potential.
Court cannot impute income in a higher amount than the spouse previously earned, except if the spouse previously did not work at all or if the spouse recently obtained education, certification, or licensure. For underemployed spouses, courts can impute income based on a forty-hour workweek, if no other evidence is available.
Alimony and child support are often key to a spouse or parent’s financial stability. If you believe that your spouse or co-parent is being dishonest about his or her earnings, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein today for a initial consultation.