Child Support Guidelines for an Unemployed Parent

In the process of determining child support obligations, the history of employment of the non-custodial parent, whether stable or not, is normally used. Oftentimes, a person is required to pay child support even if they are jobless. In such cases, the calculation of child support obligation is based on a person’s imputed income rather than their actual income.

Imputed Income reasoning by the law

Many facts and calculations are required for a court to make an order. The decision is based on many factors, including the number of children and the parent’s income. When calculating parent income, a court also considers income changes like raises, layoffs, and resignations. Unfortunately, some parents may report lower income to avoid child support payments or lower the overall payment requirement.

To combat this conduct, courts can often use imputed income as a factor in child support calculations. Essentially, the court assigns income to a parent who has reported no income or meager income based on what the parent could have earned if they worked up to their capabilities. Often this is imputing an income from a minimum wage job. The parent is then ordered to pay child support that coincides with this minimum income level.

Situations in which Imputed Income can be applied

Imputed income is used when a parent has become voluntarily unemployed or underemployed and is not earning to their full capacity. In such cases, the court prioritizes the best interest of the child while making child support decisions. Imputed income is used to calculate the child’s needs and therefore, does not prioritize what the parent wants.

The court determines why the parent is not earning enough based on their capabilities. The court may inquire why the parent is unemployed or underemployed. It may be due to job loss, unavoidable layoffs, company downsizing, or the closing of a family business. “The court may have a separate hearing to gather the evidence before applying an imputed income decision. Hence the parent applying for imputed income should ensure that the application and documents submitted are authentic and valid.” advises attorney Ellen Lynch from Dolan Divorce Lawyers. Effects of the economy may also be considered if the parent primarily relies on commission income, as a sudden dip in the economy may cause a drop in the parent’s income. The court may also consider what efforts the parent has made to increase their income to provide the required child support, such as finding a new job.

The court, however, may refuse to impute income in situations where they consider it unfair to do so. For example, the parent is staying home to take care of young children. Another example is if a parent is making efforts to find a new job or they are seeking higher education. This is because these efforts will help provide better for the family in the future. Therefore, the child support obligation would increase once the parent’s pursuit of higher income has come to fruition. However, if a parent is not earning much income and income is not imputed, this can result in a lower monthly child support obligation.

Legal way to challenge an Imputed income decision

If a parent does not want imputed income to apply, they may have to provide evidence to contest the application of imputed income. Proof of efforts might include job resumes, interviews, or registration with a temp agency. To determine how much income to impute to a parent, the court may consider many factors such as the parents’ employment history, job skills, past earnings, and current opportunities for jobs in the area.

Contact a Lawyer

Child support may last for many years. Contact an experienced family lawyer to help you navigate the complex process of determining child support.