When a court faces a question about the calculation of an alimony obligation, it generally looks at the requesting spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. In many situations, that may involve just looking at the income and the expenses of each spouse. There are situations, though, where a court may be legally obliged to consider more than just the respective incomes of the two spouses. One circumstance where that’s the case occurs when one spouse is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed. If you are involved in a case that includes issues of alimony and/or child support and your spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, then be sure you have the skill of an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.
J.M. and T.M.’s divorce case was one where alimony was one of the key issues in dispute. In the case, the husband sought to have income imputed to the wife. Intentionally avoiding work, or avoiding working at an income level commensurate with your education and professional experience, can have the impact of skewing the calculation of the proper amount of alimony. When the court decides that this “voluntary unemployment” or “voluntary underemployment” has happened, then the law allows the judge to do what’s called “imputing income” to the spouse who is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed.
In that process, the judge determines how much the voluntarily underemployed or unemployed spouse would be making if he/she were earning up to his/her reasonable capabilities, and then makes a determination about alimony based on that figure, not the spouse’s actual income. This is true whether the allegedly voluntarily underemployed or unemployed spouse is the one seeking alimony or is the one who may be ordered to pay alimony.
If you are the spouse who is arguing to the judge that your ex is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, it is important to keep in mind that there are certain specific things you’ll need in order to back up this argument. One possible source that you can use in bolstering your claim that your spouse is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed is data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you use data from the BLS, however, you must be sure that that data is included in the court record from your trial court case. If it isn’t placed on the evidentiary record, then any rulings based on that data may be vulnerable to being thrown out on appeal.
That’s what happened to this husband, T.M. The husband argued that the trial court should impute income to his wife, a clinical psychologist. The trial court agreed with the husband, and imputed an income of $92,000 to the wife. That ruling was overturned on appeal. The trial judge based his ruling, at least in part, on BLS data that was not included in the trial record from this couple’s case. Another problem for the husband was that the trial judge never made findings about the local job market in the Okaloosa County area for clinical psychologists with J.M.’s educational and professional qualifications. That is required in order for an imputation of income to survive a challenge on appeal.
As a result, the ruling was reversed and the wife got a new opportunity to contest the imputation of income to her.
Whether you seek alimony, child support or something else from the courts, the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are ready to help. Our attorneys have been providing clients with the effective representation they need to get them positive results. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Imputing Income to a Non-Working Spouse in a Florida Child Support Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 30, 2018
How the Court’s Ruling About the Tax Consequences of Your Alimony Can Alter the Size of the Award, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 19, 2018