Overcoming Your Ex-Spouse’s Claim that Your Choice of Career Constitutes Voluntary Underemployment in Florida

Being accused of being voluntarily underemployed or voluntarily unemployed can be potentially very problematic in any Florida alimony or child support case. This is true whether you are the supported spouse/parent or the supporting spouse/parent. If you are the spouse paying support, and the court rules against you, you could end up paying an amount of support based on an amount that’s far in excess of the actual amount of income you make. If you are the parent receiving the support payments, a ruling that you are voluntarily underemployed may substantially cut into the necessary support money you would have otherwise received. Regardless of whether you are in a child support or alimony case, and whether you are the supported spouse/parent or the supporting spouse/parent, you should contact a skilled Florida child support attorney promptly to help you defend your rights.

One recent case in which such an issue arose was the divorce of Joseph and Andrea, a couple who were married for 12 years until the husband filed for divorce in Palm Beach County. The couple had one child together. Both the husband and the wife were accomplished professionals. The wife had a communications degree from a university in Los Angeles, and the husband had an engineering degree from the University of Florida.

As with many parents, the couple decided to make career changes in order to address the needs of their child, with one parent transitioning from a “traditional” job to a home-based, self-employed position. This allowed for the continuation of work and income while also addressing the day-to-day needs of the child. In this family, though, that parent was the father, rather than the mother.

Before the career change, the father had made roughly $90,000 per year as an engineer dealing with cell phone technology. The father’s home-based cloud storage business never took off, failing to bring in more than $13,000 in any year. These statistics were at the heart of the mother’s argument that the father was voluntarily underemployed.

The courts sided with the father and found that he was not voluntarily underemployed. There were two key elements to the father’s successful argument in opposition to the mother’s claim. First, the proof the wife offered regarding income did not reflect the changing economic realities in the husband’s field. The husband worked in the area of cell phone technology, but he had been away from that field since 2004, and his knowledge related to cell phones that predated even the earliest smartphones. In other words, in a world of iPhones and Androids, much of the husband’s skill and knowledge was obsolete.

Second, the decision that the father would transition into a home-based career was one made as a family, rather than something he did unilaterally. The decision allowed the father to do many things, like care for the child when sick and be far more involved with the child’s education than he could have been in an office job. That the decision was not made unilaterally was important. As the appeals court explained in its opinion, the wife basically “now asks us to judge the wisdom of a business decision jointly made by the parties six years prior to their separation. We are not at liberty to question the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the Former Husband’s decision to remain in a business that has proven unprofitable.”

If you are involved in a child support or alimony case, and your ex has accused you of being voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, you need to take this matter very seriously because an unfavorable outcome can have drastically negative consequences for you (and possibly your child/children). Reach out right away to the skilled South Florida child support attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our team has been helping people with alimony and child support issues for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Florida Appeals Court Imputes Income, Assigns Child Support Obligation to Incarcerated Father, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 27, 2017

Calculating Child Support in Florida When a Parent Has Been Recently Fired or Laid Off, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 27, 2016

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