Why You Should Never Lie About Your Income in a Florida Child Support Proceeding
Florida law establishes a set of child support guidelines that takes into account a number of factors, notably each parent’s respective income, in deciding the final amount of any support payments. Although parents may reach a voluntary agreement regarding child support, a judge must still approve any such agreement in accordance with the guidelines. This means it is the responsibility of the parents to engage in good-faith settlement efforts that do not, for instance, attempt to mislead the court as to a parent’s actual financial situation.
Appeals Court Says Father May Not Benefit from “Unclean Hands”
A recent decision by the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal, Corrigan v. Vargas, illustrates what can go wrong when parents ignore this principle. This case involves a never-married couple with a minor child. In 2006, the parents established an “informal agreement” to share custody. But in 2015, the father petitioned a Florida judge to establish a formal timesharing plan. The father later asked the court to order the mother to pay child support.
At the time, the father told the court he did not work or have any income for the past two years–he was effectively a “stay-at-home dad.” Meanwhile, the mother had a job as a nurse. The judge denied child support, however, noting that the financial documents filed by the father in connection with his request was “inconsistent with his lifestyle and lacked credibility.”
Following this, the parents entered into voluntary mediation to address both timesharing and child support issues. During this mediation, the father represented he earned gross monthly income of $3,333, while the mother earned $4,167 per month. Based on these figures, the father ended up owing the mother $1 per month in child support. The parents and the mediator later filed a settlement agreement with the court reflecting this, as well as the parties’ resolution of timesharing.
But the father later returned to court, asking a judge for permission to “reengage in discovery” of the mother’s financial records. The father now told the judge that he conspired with the mother and the mediator to falsify the financial records relied upon in the settlement agreement. Essentially, the father alleged the mediator told him “that if he was willing to waive child support, [the mother] was willing to increase his timesharing.” This required the father to overstate his income for purposes of the child support guidelines.
Although the trial court actually granted the father’s request to vacate the earlier child support order, the Fifth District reversed, holding the father could not benefit from his own fraudulent actions. The Fifth District cited the “doctrine of unclean hands,” which basically prevents a court “from granting a party relief from a result the party brought about through its own voluntary acts.”
Speak with a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today
It really should go without saying that you should never file a false document with a court, or to lie in the hopes of obtaining a more favorable outcome in a child custody case. A qualified Boca Raton child support lawyer can advise you on the proper, legal way to deal with child support and timesharing disputes. Call WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-488-7788 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our family law team today.