How Can Homeschooling Affect the Calculation of Alimony and Child Support Obligations?
With the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, many parents have been forced into the role of homeschooling teachers. But even before the pandemic, a significant number of Florida parents voluntarily considered homeschooling the best educational option for their children. But how can the decision to homeschool impact a court’s calculation of alimony or child support?
Appeals Court: Trial Judge’s “Suspicions” About Mother’s Need to Homeschool Is Not Evidence
At first, this question might sound strange. Why would alimony or child support differ based on whether a child is schooled at home or in a more conventional setting? But as it turns out, at least one Florida appeals court has considered the role homeschooling should–or should not–play in such disputes.
The case at issue, Waldera v. Waldera, involves two Monroe County parents who filed for divorce in 2015. During the marriage, the mother stopped working full-time and decided to homeschool the couple’s child. According to court records, the mother only performed “sporadic” bookkeeping work while homeschooling.
At the parents’ 2018 divorce trial, the judge decided to “impute” approximately $2,100 per month in income to the mother for purposes of calculating alimony and child support. Imputing income is a common practice in Florida divorce cases. It is a mechanism to prevent a parent from avoiding an support obligation by voluntarily refusing to work. In other words, you cannot quit your job to reduce your income to zero and then claim you are unable to pay child support. The judge will estimate or “impute” the income you would have earned had you not quit your job.
In this case, the judge decided it was no longer “necessary” for the mother to continue homeschooling the child. Based on this assumption, the court imputed the mother’s income at 20 hours per week at a rate of $25 per hour. The judge then reduced the amount of alimony and child support the father would owe taking into account this imputed income.
The Florida Third District Court of Appeals, however, said the trial judge’s reasoning was “unsupported by competent, substantial evidence.” At trial, the mother testified the child’s “homeschooling was successful and needed to continue,” and that it required 7 to 10 hours per day of her time. The appeals court said this testimony went unrebutted by the father. Yet the trial judge nevertheless found the mother had “20 hours of available time to work per week.” This was apparently based on nothing more than the judge’s “suspicion that the child’s homeschooling was unnecessary.” But suspicion was not evidence, so the Third District ordered a new hearing on the issue.
Speak with a Florida Alimony & Child Support Lawyer Today
There are many parenting decisions that may come up for review or scrutiny in a divorce case. An experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney can provide you with advice and representation in defending those decisions. Contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, today at 561-488-7788 to schedule a consultation.