The financial circumstances of each party, as well as a host of other factors, govern whether and how much a Florida court will award in alimony and child support in a divorce. Each party’s assets, debts, income and expenses are compiled, compared and considered as part of a bigger picture to arrive at fair dollar figures.
One part of that “bigger picture” is each party’s earning potential – that is, not what he or she actually earns, but what he or she could earn. Parties to divorce who are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, and who could probably earn more with reasonable effort, can expect the court to make alimony and child support determinations as if they actually earn that amount. This is called “imputing” income, and a recent case from Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals (DCA) illustrates the legal concept well.
In Adelberg v. Adelberg, the wife, 59, had a master’s degree in urban planning and experience running her own public relations firm, but she was unemployed when she and her husband filed for divorce. A vocational expert testified at the trial that, although the wife had been unemployed for eight years, she was qualified for positions in public relations and fundraising that paid $40,000 to $50,000 per year.
Despite this evidence, the trial court did not impute income to the wife. But on appeal, the Fourth DCA reversed the order. The case was remanded to the trial court for recalculation of alimony.
Determining alimony is a complex process that is very open to interpretation. Those seeking divorce who believe their spouse is voluntarily unemployed should speak with their divorce attorney about imputing income.