When you're a divorced parent, you naturally expect to pay your fair share of the child support. But, what happens when your ex-spouse doesn't seem to want to play fair? If your ex-spouse is purposefully unemployed (or vastly under-employed), you may have a good reason to ask the court to impute their income to make the child support calculations fairer.
What does it mean to ask the court to "impute" income to your ex-spouse?
Basically, you're asking the court to assign a pretend income to your ex-spouse for the purposes of the child support calculations based on what the court believes is your ex-spouse's actual ability to earn a living.
Normally, the court just looks at the actual income each parent is bringing in when figuring out how much child support each will pay. However, if you successfully argue that your ex-spouse is purposefully not living up to their earnings potential in order to get more child support, the court might take a second look.
What does the court actually consider in these kinds of cases?
The major question the court has to consider is whether or not your ex-spouse's lack of employment is voluntary or not. For example, if your ex-spouse had a good job with a sizeable income and cut down to part-time for no reason that's discernable (or acceptable to the court), the court would likely find your ex's underemployed status to be voluntary. On the other hand, if your ex was cut down to part-time because there's been a general lag in the local economy, the court is unlikely to find fault.
For the most part, the court will look at three things:
- Does your ex-spouse have the ability to work? Does your ex-spouse have job skills or a degree? Is there any good reason your ex can't work right now, like an illness or disability?
- Is there an opportunity for your spouse to work? Are jobs available where your ex-spouse lives that fit your ex's skill set?
- Has your ex-spouse shown any willingness to work? Has your ex put our resumes, filled out applications for jobs, and gone on interviews?
Ultimately, it isn't easy to prove that your ex-spouse is purposefully slacking off and refusing to work in order to milk you for extra child support -- but it can be done. If you believe that's what's happening, you need to start to strategize with your child support attorney about the evidence that you can bring into court to convince the judge that imputing income is the right things to do.