Florida Court Discusses Imputed Income and Child Support

Florida law imposes an obligation on all parents to provide financial support for their children. As such, when parents share custody of a child, the courts will frequently order one parent to pay the other parent child support. Generally, child support is based on the income of each parent. If a court determines that a parent voluntarily reduced their earnings, however, the court can impute income to them. Recently, a Florida court issued a ruling discussing imputed income and child support in a case in which the mother appealed the calculation of her support obligation. If you need assistance with a child support issue, it is advisable to meet with a Miami child support attorney as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the mother and father have two minor children. The father filed a petition to establish paternity and obtain custody rights and child support. The mother filed a counter-petition, seeking sole parental responsibility, the majority of timesharing, and child support. Following a trial, the court found that the mother, a self-employed lawyer that typically earned between $14,000 to $20,000 per year, was willingly underemployed.

Allegedly, the vocational expert that testified in the matter stated that the mother could find employment as an attorney, paralegal, or a community association manager if she chose to obtain a license in that field. Based on that testimony, the trial court imputed an income to the mother of $76,000 annually, in part due to the finding that she had a CAM license. The mother appealed on numerous grounds. The appellate court affirmed on all issues except the imputation of income to the mother and the court’s failure to make findings as to net income when calculating child support.

Imputed Income and Child Support

The appellate court addressed numerous errors made by the trial court. First, there was no evidence that the mother indeed had her CAM license. Second, it was improper to impute an income that exceeded what she had ever earned. Finally, the appellate court noted that the expert’s testimony on income was based on national information from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, not from the local community as required under Florida law.

The appellate court ultimately reversed the determination of child support on the grounds that the trial court failed to make adequate findings as to each party’s net income in the final judgment. Further, a child support guidelines worksheet was not attached to the final judgment.

Speak to an Experienced Miami  Child Support Attorney

It is not uncommon for the Florida courts to impose child support obligations, but if they rely on inappropriate calculations, the obligation imposed may be improper. If you need assistance with a child support or custody matter, it is smart to speak to an attorney regarding your options.  The experienced Miami child support attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal outcome possible in your case.  Our office is in Aventura, and we frequently represent parties in family law cases in Miami. You can reach us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a conference.