What Is “Imputed” Income, and How Does It Affect an Award of Child Support?
Florida courts base child support awards on a series of guidelines written into state law. These guidelines require a judge to consider all sources of a parent’s income when determining their ability to pay child support obligations. And in some cases, the court may assign or “impute” income to a parent who is unemployed or “underemployed.”
A recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, Cura v. Cura, helps to illustrate what we mean by imputed income. The spouses in this case divorced after 17 years of marriage. The couple had three minor children. The mother sought custody of the children, as well as an award of child support and alimony against the father.
During a hearing, the father told the judge that he was “wholly dependent on his mother” for financial support and that he “lacked any access to either tenable employment or financial resources.” In response, the mother presented evidence that, in fact, the father “continued to enjoy a substantial lifestyle, consisting of travel, private flight lessons, and the retention of an extensive collection of luxury goods.” Indeed, just before divorce proceedings began, the husband actually liquidated several valuable assets but was “unable to offer an explanation as to the whereabouts of any of the proceeds.”
The trial judge ultimately found the father’s testimony lacked credibility. As a result, the judge “imputed a modest income to the husband” for purposes of calculating alimony and child support. That is to say, the judge determined the father was fully capable of working and estimated the income he should be earning based on his “recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community,” as well as other “economic factors.”
On appeal, the Third District agreed with the trial court that it was appropriate to impute income. Unless the judge makes specific findings that the parent has some “physical or mental incapacity,” or is otherwise unable to work due to circumstances beyond their control, imputing income is required to prevent said parent from avoiding a support obligation through “voluntary” unemployment or underemployment. In this case, the judge found the husband’s explanations for why he was not working to be “patently unreasonable,” i.e., not the result of incapacity or some other external factor.
Speak with a Florida Child Support Lawyer Today
You might be wondering how a court would impute income if the parent has no recent work history, or for some reason no income records were available. By default, Florida law requires a judge to use the “median income of year-round full-time workers,” based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This median-income figure only creates a “rebuttable presumption,” however, meaning the court may consider additional evidence if it becomes available.
If you have additional questions about imputation of income and would like to speak with a qualified Boca Raton child support attorney, contact WiseLieberman PLLC today at 561-488-7788 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our family law team.