Quitting a high-paying corporate job to work at a burger joint as a way to avoid child support is a bad idea. Mothers and fathers have a legal obligation to financially support their children - whether or not they are involved in the child’s life. So, lowering or hiding income is not the answer to reducing child support. Parents' attempts to shirk their financial duties to their children can ultimately backfire. Courts are prepared to deal with these types of situations by "imputing" (or attributing) income to deadbeat parents.
This article provides a general overview of how and under what circumstances courts will impute income for child support purposes in Georgia. If after reading this article, you still have questions about imputing income, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Georgia has implemented state guidelines for calculating child support that are highly dependent upon the reported incomes of both parents. For purposes of calculating child support, a parent's income includes his or her salary, income, commissions, overtime, severance pay, bonuses and self-employment income. To learn more about how child support orders are determined, see our article, Child Support in Georgia.
In certain situations, where one parent believes that the other parent is earning less than they should or could be earning without a medical reason, a court can increase the amount of child support under the Georgia state guidelines by imputing income to that parent.
To impute income means to assign income to a parent. When courts impute income, a higher salary than what the parent actually earns is used for purposes of calculating child support. Courts impute income when a parent is capable of earning more, but simply chooses not to - such as when a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.
A voluntary unemployment situation occurs when a parent is able to physically work, but instead chooses not to. Voluntary unemployment are those where a parent quits their job, intentionally gets terminated, or is laid off but refuses to find a new job.
An underemployment situation exists when a parent makes any intentional choice or takes any action that affects their income. Unlike some other states, Georgia does not limit underemployment situations to just occupational choices. In considering whether a parent is voluntarily underemployed, courts look at whether the parent’s abilities, education, training, and a reasonable amount of effort could produce more income.
A court may consider the following factors when imputing income to an underemployed parent:
If a court decides that one parent is intentionally avoiding child support obligations through an unemployment or underemployment situation, the court will review the parent’s employment history. In deciding how much income to impute, courts may review the parent’s prior tax returns, check stubs or other financial information.
However, if the unemployed or underemployed parent does not provide income information or no income information is available for the parent, a court may impute income based upon a full-time (40 hours per week) minimum wage job. Still, even after income has been imputed, either parent may file documents with the court within 90 days to decrease or increase the amount imputed to a parent based on reliable and clear evidence.
Georgia maintains a state website to help parents who want to file a child support modification action on their own at www.georgiacourts.org.
If you have other questions about imputing income for purposes of child support in Georgia, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on the factors considered in child support modification actions in Georgia, see the Official Georgia Code Annotated Title 19, Chapter 6, Section 15.