Imputation of Income in a Florida Divorce

Imputation of Income in a Florida Divorce, or overcoming “sudden income deficiency disorder,” can be challenging. It is becoming increasingly common for one of the parties to a Florida divorce to suffer a sudden, and unexplainable loss in annual income right before it’s time to calculate their child support or alimony. A Husband or Wife who has been able to work and earn a good living is suddenly barely able to scrape by. Florida Divorce attorneys and Courts are all too familiar with this situation, and the concept of “imputation of income” has been developed to address it.

Imputation can best be described by two examples:

Example 1:

Husband has a historic income of $180,000.00 for the past five years. He then files for divorce, and through the divorce process discloses that his current income level is only $50,000.00, citing either a downturn in the economy, loss of clients, or other events out of his control. He then proceeds to argue that his alimony and child support obligations should be calculated based on his current income levels instead of his historic income levels. In this scenario the Wife would request that the court “impute” to the Husband his prior income of $180,000.00, and that his child support and alimony payments, as well as any other obligations stemming from the divorce be based on that income.  

Example 2:

Wife has a nursing degree and some work history prior to and early in the marriage. During the marriage the Wife voluntarily stopped working, and has proceeded to remain unemployed up until the divorce. Usually, the Wife would take the position that child support and alimony should be calculated on her earning either zero income, or only minimum wage, thus increasing the amount of alimony or child support she would receive. Husband would argue that the because the wife is voluntarily unemployed, that the Court should impute income to her at what she could be making if she were working as a nurse.

Example 1 is typically much easier for the divorce Courts to resolve, as there is an earning history to rely on. A forensic accounting of the Husband’s business income coupled with a well executed deposition of the Husband and some of his employees would likely reveal that the Husband’s recent loss in income is on paper only.

Example 2 is slightly more complicated, as the Husband would be required to provide the Court with “competent substantial evidence” that the Wife could earn a similar salary to any other nurse in the area. This would require a showing that she is, or could become current with any required certificates, licenses or continuing education, and evaluation by a vocational expert showing that not only is the Wife employable, but that there are currently positions available in the local economy for which she would be eligible, and that the Wife has no other reasons, such as physical or mental limitations, that would prevent her from working.

In either example, a successful imputation of income can have a drastic impact on the child support and alimony calculations for both parties, and it is important not to underestimate the impact of expert witnesses in this area. If you have a spouse who is either refusing to work, or claiming a sudden loss in income, talk to one of our attorneys to see how we can help.