When Should a Court Impute Income to an Unemployed Spouse?

Imputation of income to a spouse is very fact intensive. When a court decides to impute income to a spouse, they do so on a case by case basis. Your case might be very different from another case that is in front of the judge. A recent case in the Fourth District recently dealt with this issue. In Adelberg v. Adelberg, the trial court refused to impute income to the Wife for alimony purposes. The appellate court found that the trial court abused its discretion and reversed the trial court's order.

The Wife in Adelberg requested alimony from the Husband. She was 59 and he was 60 years old at the time of trial. The Wife has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in urban planning. When they met, the Wife was 41 years old and ran her own public relations/marketing consulting firm in Boston.

During trial, a certified vocational evaluator testified about the Wife's wage-earning capacity. The evaluator relied on state agency wage data, statistics on the internet, the Wife's financial affidavit, answers to interrogatories, the mediation outline, and the Wife's deposition transcript. Even though the Wife had not worked for eight years, the evaluator testified that the Wife could take a one-day class to learn Microsoft Office and another class to get up-to-speed with social media. The evaluator considered her employable, and identified jobs in public relations, social services, and fundraising for nonprofits and universities, which she opined could earn Wife between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.

The amount of income a spouse may be able to earn is a factor the court should consider in determining an alimony award A court may impute income where a party is willfully earning less and the party has the capability to earn more by the use of his [or her] best efforts. The court should consider the wife's work history, her occupational qualifications, and the prevailing earnings in the community for the type of jobs for which the wife is qualified.

Here, the couple had been married for seventeen years. The Wife was unemployed when the petition for dissolution was filed. To impute a specific amount of income, it is unnecessary to prove that an employer would actually hire the spouse. Because the Wife admitted that she does not intend to look for a Job, and expert testimony established that she qualified for the available jobs, her unemployment was self-imposed, and the court erred in not imputing income to her.

If you believe your spouse is voluntarily unemployed, contact your expert family law attorney to discuss whether you should request that a court impute income to your spouse pursuant to the Florida case law.