When a couple has a child, each is responsible for providing care and support for that child. In the vast majority of cases, this is a responsibility both parties relish and they take this job very seriously. This is true even of divorced couples that are required to pay child support and provide regular visitation or custody.
However, occasionally a divorcing parent will attempt to shirk their financial responsibilities when negotiating a child support agreement. They will do this by being unemployed or underemployed, thereby lowering their income. This matters for child support purposes because each parent’s support obligations is dependent upon his or her income. A higher income generally computes to a greater support obligation. If a parent quits a job or seeks a demotion and has a lower salary, this would affect the calculation.
Florida courts do not tolerate this type of responsibility shirking and have employed a practice known as imputing income to combat it. When a parent voluntarily chooses to be unemployed or underemployed, the court can impute or assign a higher income to that parent for child support purposes. This imputed figure would reflect what the parent should or could earn if he or she had not voluntarily chosen to earn less.
Imputing income is only done under circumstances when it appears that one of the parents is attempting to avoid payments. If a parent has simply been laid off or has made a career change, courts will consider this evidence when calculating support. By reviewing the totality of the circumstances and accepting testimony from both parents, courts try to determine the extent that each parent is able or should be able to contribute and will require payments based on that determination. Sometimes this is a very difficult task for the Court, but the task can be made easier when you are represented by an experienced family law attorney.
For more information on imputing income or how child support is calculated, contact a Florida family law attorney.
Family law attorney Andrea Jevic also contributed to this blog post.