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Sometimes in particularly acrimonious divorces, the spouse who would otherwise pay a certain amount of child support purposely quits his or her job in an attempt to lower the support payments. In ordering child support, the court bases the decision in part on the separate incomes of the parties involved. By quitting a job, some people think they can get around paying support.

However, under Florida law, a court may impute — or attribute — additional income to the paying parent — the obligor — if he or she voluntarily quits a job or takes a pay cut. The obligor parent may not actually have the imputed income, but the court may still require monthly support payments based on the sum of the actual income and the imputed income.

In addition to proving that an obligor parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the receiving parent must also show that the obligor parent has not made a good-faith effort to find gainful employment. With that in mind, let’s consider the following scenario.

Maybe an obligor parent voluntarily quit a job with the intention of taking a higher-paying position in the future. For example, if a parent responsible for paying child support quits a job to pursue training for a position that pays more, then the court may decide not to impute the amount of income the parent was initially earning.

Still, in matters of imputing income, the court will ultimately make a decision based on the best interests of the child.

Florida law mandates the imputation of income when a parent intentionally lowers his or her income to avoid making payments. No such mandate exists for alimony, though in some cases it is still possible to impute income for spousal support.

In any case, whether you’re concerned with child support or alimony, it is a good idea to have legal counsel. A family law attorney can clarify your options and help you reach a favorable resolution.

Source: Marco Eagle, “It’s The Law: Income can be imputed for alimony or child support,” William G. Morris, Aug. 18, 2014