In awarding alimony, income will not be imputed to a spouse who decides to defer taking Social Security benefits when that party would receive larger benefits by deferring the benefits.
In a case captioned Huertas Del Pino v. Huertas Del Pino the trial court imputed income to the Wife based on the Wife’s failure to apply for Social Security benefits. A court may impute income to an unemployed or underemployed party in determining that party’s need or ability to pay alimony. The party seeking to impute income has the burden of proof. In this case, the Wife was a stay at home mother with little employment experience. After the divorce was filed, the Wife unsuccessfully attempted to find employment. The trial court held that the Wife could find forty hours per week of employment and that she was capable of earning ten dollars per hour. Additionally, at the time of the final hearing, the Wife was eligible to immediately receive $640 per month in Social Security benefits. However, if the Wife elected to defer receipt of these Social Security benefits until after her sixty-fifth birthday, she would receive $900 per month in Social Security benefits. The lower court ruled that the Wife had an obligation to immediately apply for her Social Security benefits and imputed $640 per month to the Wife in reaching its alimony determination.
The Florida Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and held that the trial court improperly utilized the Wife’s current monthly Social Security payments in reaching its alimony computation. The Court of Appeal held that a party may properly choose to defer taking his or her Social Security benefits when the economic value of receiving the benefits early is outweighed by the benefit of receiving them later. A trial court should impute Social Security benefits and pension benefits to a party when that party can elect to draw benefits without receiving any reduction in these benefits. However, if by immediately taking pension or Social Security benefits a party will receive a reduced amount, it is improper to impute these benefits to that party as income. Deferring receipt of these benefits is not considered to be an intentional reduction in income; it is considered to be a wise investment strategy.
To speak with an alimony attorney in Boca Raton, Florida, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. at (561) 363-3400.