Divorce in the Time of Coronavirus
When is the Right Time to File for Divorce? There is no one size fits all solution for Florida couples seeking a divorce. There are many considerations depending on your circumstances. But in this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some important special issues to consider.
I Lost My Job or My Hours Were ReducedIf you have recently lost your job or had your hours reduced, you may be afraid to file for divorce. But there are some considerations that may weigh in favor of filing sooner rather than later. For example, alimony and child support amounts are calculated based on the income of each spouse. But in Florida you can’t quit your job on purpose or take a lower paying job just to avoid paying alimony or child support. This is called “voluntary” unemployment or underemployment and the court can assume your income is the same amount you used to earn before you quit or changed jobs. This is known as “imputing” income. When a job loss is involuntary, however, a Florida court may not simply impute income based on your old job. The court must rely on substantial competent evidence that proves the amount of money that you have the present ability to earn in your local community. Previously, courts would simply look at your educational background and work history, and impute income to you based on potential available jobs in the local area, often based on the testimony of an expert witness known as a vocational expert. The income imputed to you was frequently the same or even more than you earned previously.
Why You May Want to File for Divorce NowIn this time of coronavirus, however, many people are experiencing unprecedented reductions in their income that are not only involuntary, but potentially long-term. No one can predict the length of time that these economic dislocations will last. Some industries may never fully recover. It is unclear how the Florida courts will handle determinations of income in divorce cases in the coming months, but it seems clear that the old methods of simply imputing income based on previous work experience will need to adapt to the evolving workplace realities that jobseekers will be facing. Imputing additional income to a spouse may be much more difficult this year.