child support lawyer

How to Calculate Child Support when One Parent is Unemployed

If one parent is currently out of a job, child support becomes a difficult to allocate. 

Many clients wonder how child support is calculated when one parent is unemployed. Often times, the non-working party may believe that because of his or her unemployment he or she may be awarded a higher amount in child support to stay home and care for the minor children. However, according to Florida Courts, that is not always the case.

In calculating child support when one party is willfully unemployed or underemployed, Florida Courts engage in a two-step process. Firstly, the trial court must conclude that the termination of income was voluntary.  Secondly, the trial court must determine whether the subsequent unemployment is the result of the Former Spouse’s pursuit of his or 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. The trial court must make factual findings as to both steps.  The trial court must also set forth factual findings as to the probable and potential earnings level, source of imputed and actual income, and adjustments to income. The party claiming income should be imputed to the other party, on purported grounds of unemployment or underemployment, bears the burden of showing both that the other party is employable and that there is employment available to him or her. In other words, the court can impute income to the non-working parent. However, the two-step process must first be met.

In Heard v. Perales, the trial court denied the Mother child support asserting that she was voluntarily unemployed, but improperly applied the two-step process. Specifically, the trial court made no findings regarding the Former Wife’s diligence in seeking new employment.  Nor did the evidence support a finding that her subsequent unemployment resulted from less than diligent and bona fide efforts to find employment, as the Former Husband did not introduce evidence as to these issues.  Given the lack of necessary findings and evidence, the appeals court reversed and remanded for a redetermination of child support.

If you have concerns regarding child support or require legal assistance in other areas of Family Law you may always contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected].