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Court Orders Incarcerated Parent to Pay Child Support

A Florida District of Appeal Court recently upheld a trial court’s final judgment of dissolution of marriage requiring the husband, who was in prison, to pay child support. The trial court evidently imputed income to the incarcerated parent based upon his previously established earning ability. The court was trying to balance competing policy concerns—the obligation of a parent to provide support for his or her children versus an incarcerated individual’s ability to pay. Although in most instances a parent without ability to pay will not be ordered to pay child support, Florida’s child support laws allow for imputation of income if the evidence demonstrates that the obligor’s unemployment or underemployment is voluntary. The court found that an individual’s actions that lead to jail or prison are voluntary for purposes of the Florida child support guidelines.

In this particular case, the father was serving time in prison resulting from convictions for attempted child molestation. Clearly, his intent to molest the child was a voluntary act. A more difficult decision may arise when the courts are faced with parents incarcerated for crimes which don’t require such specific intent. For example, a parent may be incarcerated for simple drug possession due to an opioid addiction, which is more in the nature of a health problem than a crime.
If you have any questions about a divorce or family law issue, you can contact me at paulrice@ricelawflorida.com or 386-257-1222.  I’ve been practicing family law for 33 years, and I’m board certified in marital and family law by the Florida Bar.
Paul E. Rice, Jr., Esquire 
Board Certified Marital & Family Law