Imputation of alimony was recently discussed by the Florida Court of Appeal in a case captioned Frerking v. Stacy. In this case, the former wife appealed a trial court's decision that denied her request for permanent alimony and imputed income to her. The parties were married for nineteen years. The Florida Court of appeal pointed out that permanent alimony is intended to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the course of the marriage. Permanent alimony is presumed to be appropriate after a long-term marriage. A marriage that lasts seventeen years or more is considered to be a long-term marriage. A trial court errs when it fails to award permanent alimony where there has been a long-term marriage, unless the presumption favoring this award is overcome by competent substantial evidence.
In this alimony case, the trial judge found that former wife could be immediately employed as a full-time public-school teacher. The trial court overlooked the fact that the former wife had never been a full-time school teacher. Courts can impute income to unemployed and underemployed spouses when their loss of income is voluntary and the unemployment or underemployment is due to the party's failure to use diligent and good faith efforts to find employment that pays a salary at a level that is equal to or better than the income that the spouse previously received. The party alleging that income should be imputed has the burden of proof. In imputing income, a court is required to look at the spouse's occupational qualifications and recent work history and the prevailing level of earnings in the commun ity. The Florida Court of Appeal stated that a party's use of diligent and good faith efforts to find employment does not include retraining. A party is only required to find a job for which the party is already qualified. Accordingly, the trial court was reversed in this case and the matter was remanded to the lower court for proceedings consistent with ruling contained in this opinion.
To speak with an alimony attorney in Boca Raton, Florida, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. at (561) 328-1111.