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Understanding Child Support Modification and Imputed Income in Florida

Posted by LEISA WINTZ | Apr 02, 2024 | 0 Comments

Here is a hypo on Imputed Income in Florida Family Court. 

**John** and **Lisa** are divorcing, and they have two children. John was recently fired from his job due to showing up late and arguing with his boss (misconduct/for cause). Child support is at issue in the case. 



The Court's Decision

  • John's Termination**: The court acknowledges that John was fired for cause, which means he intentionally violated workplace rules or engaged in misconduct.
  • Imputing Income**: Despite John's job loss, the court decides to impute income to him based on his prior earnings and earning capacity.
  • Reasoning**:
    • John has the ability and opportunity to find suitable employment.
    • His misconduct led to the termination, so he cannot escape child support obligations by claiming lower income.
    • The court imputes income at the same level John was earning before his dismissal.
  • Child Support Calculation**: The court uses the imputed income to calculate John's child support obligation, ensuring the children's needs are met.

Imputing Income: What You Need to Know

  1. Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment
    • When a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, their probable earnings are assessed based on recent work history, qualifications, and community wage levels.
    • Burden of Proof**: For an initial determination of income, the party seeking to impute income must prove that the other party's unemployment or underemployment was voluntary.
    • Modification Consideration**: If circumstances change, such as job loss, the burden shifts to the person who lost their income
    • Two-Step Analysis**: Trial courts evaluate whether the loss of income was voluntary and whether efforts to find suitable employment were diligent.
    • Examples of Misconduct**: Voluntary unemployment may result from misconduct (e.g., failing drug tests, absenteeism, or non-work-related issues).
  2. Florida Courts and Imputed Income
    • Child Support and Alimony**: Florida courts take voluntary unemployment or underemployment into account when determining child support or alimony.
    • Imputation**: Income can be imputed unless the situation is beyond the parent's control.
  3. Recent Ruling**: The Court of Appeal emphasized the need for substantial evidence to support imputed income decisions.
    • Two years ago, the Florida District Court of Appeal, Fifth District, reviewed a case involving imputed income to a former wife.
    • The trial court's initial imputation lacked substantial evidence.
    • The Court of Appeal instructed a recalculation without imputing income to the wife.
    • Additionally, the trial court's exclusion of certain monthly expenses was deemed erroneous.

If you have questions about child support modification or related legal matters, consult an experienced attorney.

At **Family Matters Law Group, P.A.**, we're ready when you are. Contact us today for a Strategy Session.

Remember, understanding child support laws and imputed income is crucial for navigating family law matters effectively. If you need legal guidance, reach out.

About the Author


Leisa Wintz originally began her career as a marriage and family therapist. Ms. Wintz went on to attend law school and started practicing family law in 2009. However, she quickly realized that many family law practices lacked the empathy and compassion she believed were necessary in order to achi...


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