Where parties jointly decide that one parent should stay at home to raise and care for their children, Florida courts give great deference to this decision and ordinarily do not impute income to the stay-at-home parent in awarding alimony.
In a case captioned Wilkins v. Wilkins, the Former Wife appealed the lower court’s order granting temporary relief to the Former Husband. During the course of their relationship, the Former Husband and the Former Wife agreed that the Former Wife would live with her family and take care of the parties’ minor child and a child from the Former Wife’s previous relationship while she was completing her nursing degree.
The trial court found that the Former Wife took only one nursing course during the time that she lived with her family, and imputed income to the Former Wife for purposes of calculating child support. The trial court ordered the Former Wife to pay child support to her Former Husband, who was on active military duty.
In Wilkins v. Wilkins, the Florida Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the trial court. The appellate court ruled that although a trial court is ordinarily required to impute income to a parent who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, a trial court should give great deference to the parties’ joint decision that one of the parents should stay home to raise their children.
Since the parties agreed that the Former Wife should stay home to raise her children and attend nursing school, there was no evidence that suggested that the Former Wife was expected or required to earn income. Therefore, the appellate court ruled that there was no substantial competent evidence to support the lower court’s imputation of income to the Former Wife, and reversed the decision of the trial court.
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