What is the significance of the concept of imputed income and its application to alimony and child support?
Imputed income can become a very significant and important aspect in a divorce proceeding when we are talking about alimony and child support obligations. Florida law provides that a trial judge shall impute income to an unemployed parent where such unemployment is voluntary, "absent a finding of fact by the court of physical or mental incapacity or other circumstances over which the parent has no control. See Florida Statutes, Section 61.30(2)(b).
Thus, we have a two step process. The trial judge must first determine that a spouse is either not working or working at a reduced level on a voluntary basis.
If this finding is made, the judge must then determine whether the subsequent employment or lack of employment "resulted from the spouse's pursuit of (her) own interests or through less than diligent and bona fide efforts to find employment paying income at a level equal to or better than that formerly received."
Once these findings have been made by the court, income can only be imputed to a level supported by the evidence of employment potential and probable earnings based on work history, qualifications, and prevailing wages in the community.
The spouse who is claiming that the other is either voluntarily unemployed or underemployed will bear the burden of proof in any such proceeding. Chipman v. Chipman, 975 So. 2d 603 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008).