“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Maimonides
The law currently requires parties to a divorce proceeding where support is an issue to utilize their best efforts, given their job skills and education, to earn as much income as they can.
The proposed Senate Bill 1248 acknowledges this concept. This bill, together with the companion house bill, is currently being debated in the Florida Legislature and may become law.
The bill defines “potential income” as income which could be earned by a party using his or her best efforts and includes potential income from employment and potential income from the investment of assets or use of property. Potential income from employment is the income which a party could reasonably expect to earn by working at a locally available, full-time job commensurate with his or her education, training, and experience. Potential income from investment of assets or use of property is the income which a party could reasonably expect to earn from the investment of his or her assets or the use of his or her property in a financially prudent manner.
As one might expect, circumstances arise in divorce proceedings where parties either voluntarily or involuntarily fail to work up to their full potential. In such circumstances, it is common to refer to that state of employment as “under employment”. The Senate bill defines “underemployed” as follows: when a party is not working full-time in a position which is appropriate, based upon his or her educational training and experience, and available in the geographical area of his or her residence. A party is not considered “underemployed” if he or she is enrolled in an educational program that can be reasonably expected to result in a degree or certification within a reasonable period and that will result in a higher income, so long as the educational program is: a) temporary and is reasonably expected to result in higher income within the foreseeable future; b) a good faith educational choice based upon the previous education, training, skills, and experience of the party and the availability of immediate employment based upon the educational program being pursued.
Based on the definitions in the Senate bill, a premium is placed on the practicality of the education sought when someone is seeking to better themselves. A choice to continue education must have the end result of “immediate employment”. Therefore, a liberal arts education may not fit this requirement.
Therefore, anyone seeking to enter a different career than they are currently experiencing, needs to give some thought to that choice. Under the proposed law, the choice to reeducate one’s self must have a practical, employment oriented goal.
The concept of imputation of income will remain under the new law an issue in divorce and paternity matters involving a support claim.