In Scarti v Scarti, the Fourth District Court of Appeals recently reviewed a Florida family law court’s final judgment of paternity where the father challenged the amount he owed to the mother for retroactive child support. In particular, the father appealed the amount of income that the trial court imputed to the mother. In determining the amount the father had to pay to the mother pursuant to the child support guidelines, the court imputed $2,031 net monthly income to the mother.
The mother had a high school GED. In 2004, she earned between $1,000 and $4,500 a month operating her own landscaping company. She also testified that the most she ever earned in a year was $22,000. Her only other work experience was as a waitress at the age of seventeen and working in her mother’s flower shop. Based on her education and prior work history the court imputed $2,031 per month which totals $24,372, more than the mother earned in a given year.
The Fourth District affirmed the imputation of income to the mother in the amount of $2,031 and found that this was not an abuse of discretion.
Income on a monthly basis is imputed to an unemployed or underemployed parent when such employment or underemployment is found by the court to be voluntary on that parent’s part, absent a finding of fact by the court of physical or mental incapacity or other circumstances over which the parent has no control. In the event of such voluntary unemployment or underemployment, the employment potential and probable earnings level of the parent shall be determined based upon his or her recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community as provided in this paragraph; however, the court may refuse to impute income to a parent if the court finds it necessary for the parent to stay home with the child who is the subject of a child support calculation.