The recent economic recession created financial hardships for many, including numerous people who lost their jobs. When you lose your job, you have many things you must deal with. If you owe child support and you’re unemployed, there are certain situations in which your child’s support may be calculated based upon an income you don’t have. In a recent case from Martin County, the 4th District Court of Appeal highlighted the rules for child support obligations in these situations.
The case involved the support of the one child of Miguel Perales and Jennifer Heard, born in 2009. Each parent asked the trial court for a determination of child support in 2010. At that time, the mother was unemployed, having lost her job as a deputy sheriff after she was caught improperly recording conversations with Perales and accessing the driver’s license and vehicle information database for non-work related reasons, namely researching Perales’ girlfriend and attorneys.
The father’s gross annual income was just less than $53,000. Before getting fired, the mother’s annual income was $67,200. The court ruled that the mother lost her job due to misconduct related to the child support case, and it imputed to the mother an income of $31,200, or $15 an hour.
The mother appealed, and the appeals court overturned the trial court decision. The law requires trial courts to go through a two-part analytical process in order to impute an income to a parent who has lost her job. The first step is that the court must find that the parent is unemployed or underemployed through her own voluntary choice. If a parent has a mental or physical incapacity outside her control that caused her job loss, her unemployment cannot be considered voluntary. Voluntariness may consist of an able-bodied parent who quits her job or, as was the case in Heard’s situation, may also include a parent who is terminated from her job for her wrongful conduct.
This alone, though, is not enough to impute income. The court must also make a second finding that the parent’s continued unemployment persists only due to her “less than diligent” efforts to find new work. In Heard’s case, the trial court made no findings in relation to her diligence, or lack thereof, in finding new work after she lost her sheriff’s deputy job.
If you believe your child’s mother or father is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, you must actively request and seek that the court impute income to your ex. You also bear the burden of proof for showing that your ex is voluntarily unemployed and not diligently looking for new work. This often includes bringing forward evidence of that parent’s employability and the availability of relevant jobs in the appropriate geographic area, evidence that Perales did not introduce in his case.
Being unemployed while having children to support can be a complicated and stressful prospect. Whether you are dealing with a former spouse seeking to force you to pay an excessive amount of support, or a former spouse seeking to avoid paying support through voluntary unemployment, having experienced counsel on your case can help you make your case in court. Consult the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our diligent attorneys have experience in these types of cases and can help you get the relief you and your family needs.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule a confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Geographic Considerations and Imputing Income in Florida Child Support Cases, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 6, 2015
Couple’s Agreement Didn’t Contract Away Child’s Right to Receive Support, Survives Wife’s Challenge, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 6, 2015