In this week’s family law appellate blog, the Second District Court of Appeal directed a trial court to recalculate the parties’ child support obligations in light of the court’s exclusion from the mother’s income all of the automobile expenses paid by her business. The case is Mikhail v. Mikhail, Case No. Case No. 2D18-2153 (filed September 20, 2019).

Trial Court

Evidence was submitted at trial that showed the mother owned a company that reimbursed all of her automobile expenses, incurred both for business purposes and personal use. The final judgment did not include any of these reimbursements in her income when calculating the parties’ child support responsibilities.

Standard

For purposes of child support under the statutory guidelines, a party’s gross income includes “[r]eimbursed expenses or in kind payments to the extent that they reduce living expenses.” Fla. Stat. § 61.30(2)(a)(13).

Appellate Court

The Second District Court of Appeal held that some of the mother’s automobile reimbursements should have been treated as income because they reduced her living expenses. See Layeni v. Layeni, 843 So. 2d 295, 297 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003) (holding that the trial court erred by failing to consider automobile benefits paid on behalf of the former husband as income under section 61.30(2)(a)(13)). The court remanded the case for the trial court to determine which portion of the automobile reimbursements constitutes a legitimate business expense and which portion is for personal use. The court directed the trial judge to recalculate the child support obligations.

Appellate Take Away

Child support calculations require attention to detail. It’s easy for a trial court to miscalculate a party’s obligations if it fails to pay special attention to company reimbursements of personal expenses. Make sure your judge gets it right. If you see an error that negatively impacts you or your child, consult a family law appellate attorney right away.

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