What Counts As Income In Determining Alimony And Child Support?
In determining what constitutes income for alimony or child support purposes, Florida statute cites several sources of compensation which must be included in a party’s gross income. This post will specifically concentrate on the mandatory inclusion of monies received from gifts when calculating a party’s gross income.
As a kid you were quick to dismiss your grandmother’s advice that it was just as easy to fall for someone with money than to fall for someone without stacks of dead presidents backing them up. Who could blame you? You were fueled by youth, innocence and the notion that the only paper you wanted from your soul mate was that which they used to write you love poems. It was only later in life when the cute sales clerk from the Apple store came to pick you up in an old Yugo and asked to go “halfsies” on dinner at T.G.I. Fridays that the light bulb finally went off. As you returned home and cranked up some Hov, trying to rid your memory of the evening despite a lingering smell of patchouli which had seemingly been absorbed by every pore of your body; Jay’s words echoed in your ears, “baby, you like Dom, maybe this Cristal’s to change your life huh, roll with the winners.”
Suddenly, you realized maybe Grammy knew exactly what she was talking about after all.
That said, it seemed like the universe was surely sending you a message when a co-worker set you up on a blind date with a charming trust fund baby who was happy to show you how the other half lived. Of course, you’re no gold digger! There was real chemistry between you which convinced you that would have fallen head over heels, rubber band banks or not. In fact, you spent ten years together in wedded bliss before coming to the realization that you weren’t the only lover daddy’s money was bankrolling. Divorce became inevitable and while your betrothed hadn’t held a steady job since dropping out of Dartmouth to act as captain of his parent’s yacht five years before the two of you exchanged “I do’s”, the thought of not receiving a hefty alimony or child support award never crossed your mind. You had done your due diligence and knew that gift income had to be included in the calculation of your former flame’s gross income, per Florida statute. What could possibly go wrong?! This is about the time you remember your grandmother’s other words of wisdom… don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
Income Considered for Alimony and Child Support Payments
As a general rule, a trial court may not consider financial assistance from family or friends in determining a party’s ability to pay alimony or child support. An exception applies allowing the court to impute income for these purposes based on gifts if the gifts are consistent and ongoing. No problem, right? Hardly. The caveats applied by the court are extensive, to say the least. For gifts to be included as income, there must be proof of regular periodic payments and evidence that the payments will continue in the future. Moreover, sporadic gifts which vary in frequency and amount, even if paid over several years, are not considered to be income available for alimony or child support purposes. To add further complexity, courts have ruled that if there is any chance future gifts may be withheld, the monies should not be imputed as income because dealing with the future is purely speculative.
Another obstacle exists in that regular and continuous gifts provided for a specific purpose are more likely to be considered temporary gifts and, thus, should not be included as income for alimony or child support. For those facing divorce where the other party isn’t afforded a stipend comparable to Peaches Geldof, it has been further held that gift income should not be imputed to a party because their parents contributed funds to help make ends meet. It must be noted that this differs from in kind expenses which calls for the imputation of income to a spouse for purposes of determining alimony or child support when someone, such as an employer or parent, is paying or subsidizing a party’s monthly living expenses.