The more money you or the other parent make, the higher the child support owed.
The more you make relative to the other parent, the greater percentage of the children’s expenses you will pay.
Additionally, the income is totaled based on self-reported numbers. For W2 employees, this can simply be the last paycheck and last year’s taxes. For everyone else, the income is only what the person says it is.
Because of all these reasons, each party in a child support matter is incentivized to report the absolute minimum net income possible.
If the other parent is not working or you believe the other parent is not working enough, you can request that the court “impute” the other party’s income.
Imputing income is difficult because how do you prove that something exists when you have no evidence? Unless you arrive in court with pictures of the other party at a worksite he or she did not report, you are going to have a hard time.
More frequently, requests for imputation are based on the other parent not having an income that they should be able to have. Examples can be working less than full time to working a comfortable yet low-paying job.
In these cases the statute is very clear:
“Monthly income shall be imputed to an unemployed or underemployed parent if such unemployment or underemployment is found by the court to be voluntary on that parent’s part, absent a finding of fact by the court of physical or mental incapacity or other circumstances over which the parent has no control. In the event of such voluntary unemployment or underemployment, the employment potential and probable earnings level of the parent shall be determined based upon his or her recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing earnings level in the community if such information is available. If the information concerning a parent’s income is unavailable, a parent fails to participate in a child support proceeding, or a parent fails to supply adequate financial information in a child support proceeding, income shall be automatically imputed to the parent and there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent has income equivalent to the median income of year-round full-time workers as derived from current population reports or replacement reports published by the United States Bureau of the Census.” Fla. Stat. Sec. 61.30(2)(b)
In most cases, you just look at the other parent’s past earnings to determine they should be making if they were actually working to their full potential. But, in the case of housewives or househusband who have been out of the workforce, you have to look at census records. Those records are available online here.
You’ll find that Naples, Florida incomes are all over the place on the census. This is a city of assets not incomes.
Because of the weirdness of incomes in Naples, Florida, the court will often scrap the census guidelines and come up with its own recommendations by using this portion of the statute.
“However, the court may refuse to impute income to a parent if the court finds it necessary for that parent to stay home with the child who is the subject of a child support calculation or as set forth below:
1. In order for the court to impute income at an amount other than the median income of year-round full-time workers as derived from current population reports or replacement reports published by the United States Bureau of the Census, the court must make specific findings of fact consistent with the requirements of this paragraph. The party seeking to impute income has the burden to present competent, substantial evidence that:
a. The unemployment or underemployment is voluntary; and
b. Identifies the amount and source of the imputed income, through evidence of income from available employment for which the party is suitably qualified by education, experience, current licensure, or geographic location, with due consideration being given to the parties’ time-sharing schedule and their historical exercise of the time-sharing provided in the parenting plan or relevant order.” Fla. Stat. Sec 61.30(2)(b)
This is a long-winded version of saying, “The court can apply common-sense” and doesn’t need to rely on a census. Attorneys that stopped practicing law to raise children instead of working can make more than the average worker in the census. So, common sense should prevail.
Again the statute makes a few more limitations on imputing the income of the other parent for child support purposes.
“2. Except as set forth in subparagraph 1., income may not be imputed based upon:
a. Income records that are more than 5 years old at the time of the hearing or trial at which imputation is sought; or
b. Income at a level that a party has never earned in the past, unless recently degreed, licensed, certified, relicensed, or recertified and thus qualified for, subject to geographic location, with due consideration of the parties’ existing time-sharing schedule and their historical exercise of the time-sharing provided in the parenting plan or relevant order.” Fla. Stat. Sec. 61.30(2)(b)2.
So, in exact opposition to the what I just declared about the attorney turned housewife/househusband, you can’t use a bunch of old W-2s from 2013 to say your spouse is employable.
If you have questions about child support and your spouse, ex, or co-parent working (or not) contact my Naples, Florida Law Office to schedule a free consultation and learn more.