One of the many things you may be concerned about in a child support dispute is, “How will the court go about calculating how much I am able to pay?” This concern can be extremely high if you are someone who has recently lost your job, especially in this time of economic uncertainty and frequent “downsizing.” A case from the Tampa area that the Second District Court of Appeal decided earlier this month offers some very useful insight and information on this topic, along with hope for parents who’ve been recently fired but who are in court as potential payors of child support.
The Hillsborough County-based case involved the children of M.B. (mother) and C.B. (father). The mother asked the court to order the husband to pay child support. The husband had been recently involuntarily terminated from his lucrative job with Farm Bureau Insurance. The termination took effect mere days before the court’s hearing on the child support question. Given the short period of time between the termination and the hearing, the husband had not had time to obtain a new job and was, at the time of the hearing, unemployed except for a small income from a secondary insurance job. When he appeared in court, the husband’s total income from the second job and his severance pay from the first job totaled only about $1,700 per month.
Even though the evidence in the case undisputedly showed that the father’s termination was involuntary and was not the result of misconduct on his part, the trial court decided to impute income to him. The trial court calculated child support as if he made $140,000 per year.
The father appealed, and the appeals court threw out that child support calculation. The law has a specific set of rules regarding imputing income, or calculating child support based upon a higher amount than the payor parent’s actual income. First, the trial court must analyze whether or not the payor parent’s unemployment (or underemployment) was voluntary. If the unemployment or underemployment was not voluntary, the court’s analysis stops right there, since it is never proper to impute income in cases of involuntary underemployment or unemployment.
“Stated simply, the trial court may not impute income to a parent whose unemployment is involuntary,” the court wrote in its opinion. All of the evidence in this case regarding the father’s unemployment indicated that it was involuntary. The father testified in the hearing that he had reached out to several business contacts and had scheduled multiple job interviews, but he had not yet secured new employment.
The mother had presented substantial evidence about the father’s income history, but none of that was relevant. Even though the father was a six-figure earner in the past, and he might soon become one again, he did not have such an income at the time of the hearing, and this was through no fault of the father’s. The law was clear, then, that the court could not impute income to the father. Should the father obtain a new job, it would be the mother’s responsibility to go back to court and argue that a significant change in circumstances had occurred and that the court should raise the father’s child support obligation.
Some of the most important issues in a family law case may revolve around alimony or child support. An improperly calculated amount of child support could cause you great harm, impairing your ability to remain compliant and be an active part of your child’s life. The diligent South Florida child support attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to help with your child support case. We have resources and knowledge to put to use to protect your interests in court. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Use of Wrong Basis for Contesting Child Support Modification Costs South Florida Mom, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 17, 2015
Job Loss and Its Impact on Your Child Support in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 12, 2015