When Parents Dodge Support Obligations: Imputing Income

When a child is born, his or her parents inherit the joy and responsibility that comes with having a child. Emotionally, it does not matter if the child is one or 40 — most parents will always harbor a deep connection with their child and feel a responsibility to that person. Legally, being a parent means offering financial support to a child during his or her childhood. This is often a responsibility that two parents share through co-parenting, but it continues even if the parents part ways. 

When parents divorce, they negotiate a number of legal decisions, including custody and child support. Child support is money paid by the non-custodial parent for the purpose of providing care and support for his or her child. Generally, this amount is calculated by considering the parent’s income and determining what he or she is able to contribute. However, occasionally a parent will take steps to reduce or eliminate his or her income in order to pay less. In these situations, a court may impute that parent’s income to reach its support calculation. 

Imputing income is when a court assigns an income to a parent based on what that parent should be earning. Courts will do this if there is proof that a parent quit his or her job or purposely took a demotion in order to reduce his or her income. For instance, if a parent was earning $100,000, but, right before the support hearing, quit his or her job and took a minimum wage job, the court may impute a higher income to that parent. 

Income imputing only happens under special circumstances. Rarely will a court step in to say what a parent should be earning without proof that his or her income is a result of trying to dodge support obligations. If, for example, a parent has made a career change or gone back to school for reasons unrelated to support, a court will likely not impute income. 

For assistance with a support hearing, contact the family law attorneys at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates in New York.

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