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Articles Posted in Child Support

If you are familiar with Florida’s legal rules that relate to child support, then you may have heard the phrase “imputed income.” Imputed income means that, when it comes to calculating child support, a court will perform that calculation based upon that imputed income amount, even though the paying parent’s actual income is less–sometimes significantly less. A court may assign imputed income because the paying parent is unemployed by choice, or is voluntarily employed in a job making less than what he’s capable of earning. These rules exist to prevent a paying spouse from not working or underperforming by choice in order to avoid paying more child support.

So, then, one important question that may be on your mind is when, exactly, can a court impute income? What if I relocated to a new city and the job prospects there are less lucrative? What if I began working fewer hours because I needed to care for a seriously ill family member? What if I decided that I simply wanted to “slow down” a bit in terms of work? For helpful answers to questions about your specific situation, be sure to consult a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney.

D.W. and T.W. were parents involved in this kind of dispute. When they divorced in 2009, the father agreed to pay $550 per month in child support. Several years later, financial circumstances had changed and both parents were back in court seeking a modification of child support. The father, who was once a high-level executive chef and had also owned his own restaurant in the Panama City area, had left that work to run a small coffee shop with his current wife.

In this blog, and likely in other sources, you’ve read pieces emphasizing the importance of not “going it alone” in your family law case, but instead obtaining a skilled South Florida family law attorney to represent you in your action. That’s advice is effective for many reasons. One is that, while you may think that your case will simply come down the resolution of factual disputes, almost any type of case (whether it’s family law or something else) can be greatly helped by a legal professional with in-depth knowledge of the procedural rules in effect in Florida.

As a real-life example of this, here’s the case of D.S. and A.S. The Seminole County couple was in court over a child support dispute. The mother, A.S., wanted the father, D.S., to pay more child support (in terms of duration). She filed a “petition for modification of child support.” The trial court in Seminole County referred the case to a general magistrate.

There might be several strategic or tactical reasons why you might prefer that your case not be heard by a magistrate. This father found himself in that position and timely filed a written objection to the referral to the magistrate. Despite the promptly lodged written objection, the case still went forward before the magistrate and the mother was successful, with the magistrate extending the father’s child support obligation for an additional one year.

In your Florida child support case, it is important to understand when a Florida judge can, and cannot, issue a ruling. As one Orlando-area case recently showed, the rules regarding when a court can order child support are much broader than those regarding when a court can determine custody. There is no requirement that Florida be the child’s “home state” under child custody jurisdiction laws. In other words, if you’re in Florida and you need to assert a claim for imposition of a child support obligation, you should reach out to an experienced Florida family law attorney as you may be able to bring your case in this state.

The child support case between R.K. and P.K. was one that involved this type of issue of court jurisdiction. The couple wed in Florida, had a child here and lived as a family in this state for several years. However, at some later point, the marriage broke down, the couple separated and the mother and child relocated to Ireland.

In the summer of 2017, the husband filed for divorce in Brevard County. As part of his court document filings, the father asserted that, under Florida’s child custody jurisdiction laws, Florida courts did not have jurisdiction over the child, so the husband’s pleadings pertained solely to the couple’s issues that did not involve the child. The wife’s court papers asked the court in Brevard County to award child support, ordered that the husband contribute to the child’s uncovered health care costs and to maintain medical insurance for the child.

In any child support case, it is important if you are the parent with support obligation to contest aggressively through proper legal channels any overstatement of the amount of money you owe. For one Miami father, that recently meant going to the Third District Court of Appeal to contest a ruling that he owed seven and one-half years of child support based upon a temporary domestic violence injunction. The father was able to get that support arrearage reduced from 7.5 years down to just one year because the injunction expired after one year and the law doesn’t allow imposition of support based upon expired injunctions. If you find yourself, like this father, facing a claim that you owe a massive support arrearage, take action by retaining a skilled South Florida family law attorney to handle your case.

To understand what this case can mean for you, it helps to study the timeline. In August 2007, a trial court issued a “temporary injunction for protection against domestic violence with minor children” against K.C. As part of that case, the court ordered K.C., the father, to pay $351 every other week in child support to the mother, B.G..

Many years later, K.C. and B.G. were back in court, this time on a paternity action. At the conclusion of this case, the court decided that the temporary injunction was still in effect in March 2015, and that the father owed more than $28,000 in back child support for the preceding seven and one-half years.

When you pay child support, that money goes to allow the children’s other parent to provide for the children’s day-to-day needs. So, what happens when you or someone other than that other parent becomes the person who provides for that child on a day-to-day basis? Generally, there are certain circumstances in which the payor parent can offer what’s called an “equitable defense” against paying the full amount of support. One of these defenses is triggered when the child being supported ceases being supported by the custodial parent. In other words, you may have a case for not owing a portion of your child support obligation not only when a child moves in with you, but also when a child moves in with a grandparent or aunt/uncle or so forth. For answers to all your child support questions, contact a skilled Florida family law attorney for the information you need

One Florida family recently encountered this type of issue. The couple’s divorce action included a marital settlement agreement that laid out terms for child support. The agreement stated that the father would pay the mother $820 per month in support of the couple’s three children. The agreement also contained conditional terms for when each child became “emancipated” (turned 18). For support of two children, the amount stated in the agreement was $673 per month.

In 2016, the mother went back to court seeking an order of enforcement and/or an order holding the father in contempt. The mother alleged that, in June 2015, the father unilaterally started paying a reduced amount of child support, with modification order from the court. The father fought back, arguing that he was entitled to pay a lesser amount because the couple’s eldest child had switched from living with the mother to living with him.

You may have heard phrases like “due process” or “equal protection” on the news or in a courtroom TV show, but you may not imagine them having a substantial impact on your divorce case. You may assume that your divorce case will involve, primarily, an assessment of the factual evidence each side presents. That is not always true, however. Any family law case, like any other case, can turn on issues of fact or issues of law, including constitutional law. That’s why, no matter how straightforward or basic you may think your family law case is, you should be sure to retain the services of an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

One recent South Florida case is an example of this concept. Zanja and Richard’s case started as a straightforward paternity, timesharing, and child support matter. The court originally scheduled the hearing for one day. As is true in many cases, this pair’s hearing ran long. At the end of the first day of the hearing, the judge scheduled a second day for the continuation of the hearing. At the start of that second day, the court indicated that both sides would have a chance to present their cases-in-chief.

At the end of the second day, the parties still weren’t finished. However, this time, the judge did not allow the hearing to expand to another day. The judge ordered that, due to time limitations, each side would simply wrap up by presenting their closing arguments, and the judge would rule on what had been presented. There was one major problem:  the mother still hadn’t had the opportunity to present her case-in-chief yet.

In many court disputes involving children, child support is a key issue. Calculating the correct amount of child support can be complicated if one of the parents is not working. If the parent is unable to work, the court may proceed with calculating support based that parent’s having zero income. If the parent is able to work, however, the court must do what’s called “imputing” income to that parent. That means calculating child support as if that parent is receiving an income that he or she isn’t actually getting, and it can make a big difference in the outcome of your child support case. Whether you are potentially paying support or seeking it for your child, make sure you have the services of an experienced Florida child support attorney on your side.

Jennifer and Miguel were two parents whose child support case presented an imputed income issue. They had a child together who was born in 2009. In 2010, the father initiated a paternity action, and the court awarded him majority timesharing. The mother had been employed by the sheriff’s office but lost that job due to alleged misconduct, including misusing electronic resources of the sheriff’s office in order to obtain information about the father’s attorneys and his girlfriend.

In his court case, the father argued that the court should impute income to the mother and should do so at the relatively substantial amount she was making with the sheriff’s office when she was terminated. The mother, on the other hand, asserted that she was disabled and that, because of her disabilities and her inability to find another job, the court should not impute any income at all to her.

In some ways, calculating an appropriate child support obligation can be a bit like calculating income taxes. In situations in which the supporting parent (or the taxpayer in the tax return analogy) has exactly one source of income, the calculation may be very direct because it requires proof of only that one figure. In today’s economy, though, more and more people derive income from multiple sources. When that is true, the calculation process becomes more complicated. Additionally, just as a self-employed taxpayer often needs detailed proof of his income and expenses (particularly when he asserts that his business lost money), something similar is true of a business owner who owes child support. Florida law is very clear that, in order for the judge to factor in your business losses, you have to give the court hard proof of those losses. To make sure that you have all of the proof you need to achieve a successful result in your child support case, make sure that you have an experienced Florida child support attorney on your side.

The case of Ruben and Aixa was an example of how the lack of this type of proof can harm a supporting parent’s case. At trial, evidence demonstrated that Ruben had a variety of sources of income. He had a salary from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, living expenses reimbursement from the V.A., disability benefits, and rental income. He also had an indoor batting cage business in Orlando.

At the child support hearing, Ruben testified that his batting cage business was actually in the red during the relevant time period. The father then argued that the judge should take those business losses and subtract them from his other sources of income to calculate his true gross income. The trial court did subtract some of those losses and used the result of this subtraction as the gross-income figure from which it calculated Ruben’s child support payment.

There exists in many places, including within popular culture, an idea that the obligation to provide child support lasts for, at most, 18 years. Under this notion, once the child reaches the age of majority, on his or her 18th birthday, he or she is a legal adult, and the supporting parent’s obligation ends. But is that really the way the law surrounding child support works? For reliable answers regarding your specific child support issues in this state, the correct move is to consult an experienced Florida child support attorney.

A case originating in Palm Beach County involved one of the potential scenarios in which child support can extend past the child’s 18th birthday. Pablo and Elizabeth were the parents of several children, one of whom had special needs. Under Florida law, in order for a child support obligation to extend past a child’s 18th birthday, the child’s special needs must be so significant that they amount to a mental or physical deficiency that makes the child “unable to support himself.” That deficiency must also have initially started prior to the child’s 18th birthday in order to trigger the ongoing obligation. When that degree of special needs exists, the supporting parent’s support obligation can continue indefinitely.

In Elizabeth’s case, she was unable to win her argument for extended child support because she failed to follow proper procedural protocols. Specifically, she had not “preserved” that issue for the appeals court to review it. She was, however, still allowed to go back to the trial court and file a new motion to request a modification of child support and, in that motion, ask for the father’s support obligation to extend past the special needs child’s 18th birthday.

In any divorce case that involves minor children, the issues of child custody and child support are likely to be important elements of the case. Sometimes, if your spouse is determined by the court to be voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, you may be entitled to a larger child support payment (if you’re the recipient parent) or a smaller child support obligation (if you’re the supporting parent) based upon what’s known as imputing income to your spouse. Making a successful argument for the imputation of income often requires very detailed knowledge of both the facts and the law and can be a place where a knowledgeable South Florida child support attorney can help you. A recent case originally from Miami-Dade County demonstrates how you can succeed, even if your spouse claims to be disabled.

The case involved Michelle and Charles, a couple who married in 1992 and remained that way for 22 years. They had four children. The couple’s divorce trial focused on, among other things, the amount of child support the wife should receive. The husband was a fishing guide who made more than $80,000 per year. The wife, who had earned $20 per hour in the past as a bookkeeper, suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and was unemployed at the time of the divorce.

When the trial court calculated child support, it set the husband’s income as $84,427. On the wife’s side, it counted as income several monthly payments she regularly received, and the trial judge also imputed income to the wife in the amount of $487 per month. Based on these numbers, the court ordered the husband to pay $799 per month in child support. The wife appealed this ruling but decided to go forward in her appellate case without an attorney. One of the issues she argued in her appeal was the trial judge’s decision to impute a part-time income to her in calculating child support.