Hiding income to avoid child support is never a good idea. Child support follows the child, and both parents have an ongoing duty to support their child - whether they are involved in their children's lives or not. Unfortunately, some parents try to reduce or avoid a child support obligation by quitting a job or taking a lower-paying job. When this is proven in court, a judge can impute income to that parent.
This article provides a general overview of how and when courts impute income for child support purposes in Florida. If you still have questions about imputing income after reading this article, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Child support is heavily dependent upon the reported incomes of the parents and calculated by using the Florida Child Support Guidelines. Florida courts can order a different amount of child support that is 5 percent more or less than the guideline amount after considering factors such as the needs or the child, standard of living and parents’ financial situations. Florida courts can also change the child support amount by imputing income if a parent is voluntarily not working or capable of earning more than their current salary.
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To impute income means to assign income to a parent. When a court imputes income, it uses a higher salary number than what the parent is actually earning for purposes of calculating child support. An imputed income is based on the presumption that a parent is capable of earning more that what he or she claims to be earning. Income can be imputed in cases where a parent’s salary is underreported or where the court has determined that a parent could be earning more such as voluntary unemployment or underemployment.
Voluntary unemployment means that a parent is capable of working but simply chooses not to. This arises in circumstances such as where a parent quits a well-paying job, is purposefully terminated or refuses to apply to any job after losing theirs.
By contrast, underemployment is a situation where a parent could be in a well-paying job but has chosen to pursue a career far below their education level or income potential. Simply, it is a situation where a parent could be earning more, but chooses not to. Before imputing income in an underemployment situation, a court will want to know about the following circumstances:
Courts can review previous employment records, tax returns showing earnings for the previous 5 years, pay stubs, occupational qualifications and Department of Labor Statistics for earnings in the relevant community that demonstrate what the parent should be earning or that the parent should be earning more than they currently are bringing home.
The parent seeking to impute income has the burden to prove that the unemployment or underemployment situation of the other parent is voluntary. Note, though, a court cannot impute income to a parent at a higher salary level than the parent previously earned. If no income information is provided or available for the unemployed or underemployed parent, the court may impute income based upon a full-time (40-hours per week) minimum wage job.
The Florida Court System maintains an informative website to help those who want to file a child support modification action on their own. Go to www.flcourt.org. If you have other questions about imputing income for purposes of child support in Florida, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
You can read the full text of the law on imputing income for purposes of child support in Florida in the Florida Statutes, Chapter 61, Section 30.