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Court blocks child-support award in prisoner case

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(iStock/allanswart)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A state appeals court Thursday upheld a judge's decision that spared a prison inmate from being required to pay child support.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected arguments of the state Department of Revenue, which oversees the child-support system, but also urged the Florida Supreme Court to take up the issue.

The case centered on an effort by the Department of Revenue to impose a child-support obligation on Juan Llamas.

An administrative law judge last year declined to award child support because Llamas at the time was headed to prison on a vehicular-manslaughter charge and lacked the ability to make payments, according to Thursday's ruling.

The appeals court said the "tension between a child's need for support and an incarcerated parent's inability to provide such support is unavoidable."

But the ruling, written by Judge Thomas Winokur and joined fully by Judge Timothy Osterhaus, said state laws and Supreme Court precedent "do not permit imputation of income for child-support purposes in these circumstances."

Judge Stephanie Ray wrote a concurring opinion that said if she were "writing on a clean slate" she would conclude that the "father's incarceration for vehicular manslaughter and resulting loss of income was not a valid reason to deny setting an initial amount of child support attributable to him based on imputed income."

But like the other judges, Ray pointed to legal precedent in upholding the administrative law judge's decision.

The ruling provides few details of the underlying case. But online court and prison records indicate Llamas was convicted last year in Putnam County on the vehicular-manslaughter charge and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.