An alimony case involving imputation of income was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal in a case captioned Jorgensen v. Tagarelli. In this case the wife appealed a final judgment in which the lower court incorrectly imputed income. In the case at bar, the wife earned $118,000, in 2016. The parties separated, and the wife voluntarily left her job and began working as a self-employed insurance broker, where she earned approximately $38,000. The husband asked the trial court to impute income to the wife based upon his contention that the wife intentionally caused the reduction her income.
The Florida Court of Appeal began by pointing out that parties asserting that their spouses are voluntarily underemployed or unemployed bear the burden of proof. The appellate court then stated that trial courts are required to impute income if they find that spouses are voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. In imputing income, courts are to determine the parties’ probable earnings and employment potential based upon their occupational qualifications, recent work history, and the prevailing earnings level for similarly qualified employees in the community.
Regarding alimony, the Florida Court of Appeal found that there was substantial, competent evidence that the wife was voluntarily underemployed. However, the lower court erred in imputing income solely based on the wife’s past earnings. The Court of Appeal stated that the trial court should have imputed income based upon the wife’s current employability and the availability of jobs in her field. Trial courts should impute income based upon the salaries that are currently being paid for available jobs in the relevant geographical area for which employees are qualified. Therefore, the trial court’s final judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded to the lower court for rehearing in order to calculate the proper amount of alimony.