Court Examines Imputed Income in Florida Child Support Cases

Under Florida law, parents have a duty to provide financial support for their children. In the context of custody cases, this obligation is often the impetus for imposing a child support obligation. The courts determine what constitutes an appropriate amount of child support by analyzing numerous factors, including each parent’s income. If a parent is willfully underemployed, however, the courts may impute income to them. In a recent Florida case in which the court ultimately reversed the trial court ruling, the court discussed the grounds for imputing income to a parent. If you have questions about your rights with regard to child support, it is in your best interest to speak to a Miami child support lawyer at your earliest convenience.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the mother and the father divorced in 2014. During their divorce, they agreed to a marital settlement and parenting plan; pursuant to the plan, the mother had the majority of timesharing with the couple’s two children and home-schooled them. In 2019, the husband filed a petition to modify the timesharing and child support, seeking equal timesharing and claiming that the mother was voluntarily underemployed. He argued that modifying the timesharing would allow her to work more hours and increase her income.

Allegedly, following a hearing, a magistrate recommended modifying the timesharing to be more equal, ending the home-schooling arrangement, and imputing additional income to the mother. The mother filed exceptions to the recommendation, and the trial court largely adopted the report but granted her exception regarding the imputation of income and remanded the issue for further consideration. Following subsequent hearings, the magistrate again recommended imputing additional income to the mother, claiming she voluntarily cut her work hours in half and had not shown effort in finding alternative employment. The trial court adopted the report and recommendation. The mother then appealed.

Imputed Income in Florida Child Support Cases

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it explained that the magistrate’s findings placed the burden on the mother to avoid imputation of income, contrary to Florida law, which states that the burden of proof lies with the party requesting imputation.

Specifically, the magistrate erroneously required the mother to prove that she attempted to increase her work hours, despite her testimony that no additional hours were available, and to prove that her mother was not available to care for the children if she worked full-time. As such, the court reversed the trial court’s ruling, emphasizing that the decision to impute income must be based on competent, substantial evidence presented at an evidentiary hearing.

Meet with an Experienced Miami Attorney

Parents must provide monetary support for their children, and if the courts feel they are trying to avoid their obligations by refusing to earn an income, they will impute earnings to them. If you have questions about your rights or obligations with regard to child support, it is smart to meet with an attorney. The experienced Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are well-equipped to help you protect your interests in a child support action, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a conference.