A northern Florida appeals court reversed a court order finding an underemployed ex-husband willingly declined a $120,000 job.

The former husband lost his $150,000/year job in logistics, and took on a new career in real estate.  He earned only $38,000 in his first year, but pursued that career to spend more time with his children.  He attempted to reduce his child support obligations, but the trial judge determined he was voluntarily underemployed, and determined the child support calculations should account for the $120,000/year job he supposedly could have found.

A family court judge is allowed to “impute” income in child support calculations when A) the loss of income was voluntary; and B) underemployment resulted from the parent’s pursuit of his own interests or through less than diligent efforts to find employment paying income at a level equal to or better than that formerly received.  Even though this ex-husband was fired from his job, the court was able to find voluntary underemployment because he abandoned a well-paying career path.

Although the family court judge was correct in finding the husband was voluntarily underemployed, the appellate court determined the $120,000 calculation was erroneous.  The trial judge had no evidence supporting its calculation, and relied only on the ex-husband’s testimony that he was unsuccessful in finding a job that typically paid $120,000/year.  The appellate court reversed the calculation, and sent the case back to the family court judge to recalculate his child support obligation.

The case was Gerville-Reache v. Gerville-Reache, and the Florida appellate opinion can be found here.