In child support matters, there are certain issues that can be murky and complicated to ascertain, such as identifying when a change of circumstances has occurred that is significant enough to warrant a modification of a payor parent’s child support amount. While identifying the payor spouse’s income for purposes of calculating child support might seem like an easier task, this is not always the case, especially when the payor spouse’s income includes irregular but large bonuses. This was the case in a legal battle in the 4th District Court of Appeal between a political consultant and his ex-wife.
The couple divorced in 2009. Several years later, the mother returned to court to ask that it modify the child support order and raise the amount the father owed. The mother argued that the father made nearly $495,000 in 2012 and that this amount should serve as the basis for a calculation of the modified support amount. The trial court agreed with the mother and ordered the modification.
The father appealed because, he contended, the $495,000 amount was an anomaly and not truly representative of his annual income. Rudnick’s business was that of a political public relations consulting firm and was very involved in national conservative political activity. As a result, Rudnick’s income expanded several-fold in 2012 due to the presidential election that took place that year. The father made only $192,000 in 2010 and $120,000 in 2011. Rudnick testified at the hearing that his dramatic uptick of 2012 would not carry over into 2013.
While the Florida statute that sets out the child support guidelines and the calculation of parental income, Section 61.30(2), includes bonuses under the forms of income that are includable within the child support calculation, the law also says that those bonuses must be “regular and continuous” in order to count. For example, in a 1999 case involving another South Florida couple, Shrove v. Shrove, the court counted the father’s bonuses in calculating his child support obligations because, in the father’s job as a store manager at Publix, the bonuses were issued regularly and continuously. Alternately, a year later in Lauro v. Lauro, the 4th DCA ruled against including bonus income in a child support calculation because the evidence showed that the father’s 1997 income was, in part, the result of overtime opportunities the father’s employer was no longer offering.
In the present case, the husband’s extra income was neither regular nor continuous, but was due to a “specific non-recurring event,” namely, the 2012 presidential election. As a result, the appeals court sent the case back to the trial court, with instructions that the husband would be required to demonstrate to the trial court exactly how much of that nearly-half-million dollar income received in 2012 could be attributed to the presidential election.
For many payor parents, the amount of child support a court orders them to pay is very important because an incorrect assessment can substantially harm the payor parent’s financial ability to be actively involved in their children’s lives. When your income involves large and irregular bonuses, it may open the door for your former spouse to claim that your child support obligation should be higher than it really is under the law. To get an experienced and aggressive advocate on your side in your child support matter, contact the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys can help guide you through navigating the court system to seek a fair outcome for your family.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Jurisdiction Rules Prevent Father From Modifying Child Support in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 24, 2014
Marital Settlement Agreements, Child Support, and College Students, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 17, 2014