Unfortunately, some parents may quit their job or take a lower-paying job to lessen their child support obligation. However, hiding or decreasing one’s income to avoid child support is never a good idea. Ultimately, a parent’s attempts to avoid their child support obligation to hurt their ex, ends up hurting their child the most. Courts are able to impute income to a parent to deal with voluntary unemployment or underemployment situations. This article provides a general overview of how and when courts impute income for child support purposes in Hawaii. If after reading this article, you still have questions about imputing income, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Hawaii maintains state guidelines for calculating child support that are based primarily on the reported income of the parents. Courts may also take into account the needs of the child, parents’ standard of living, and the parents’ financial situations in calculating support. See Understanding and Calculating Child Support for more information. In situations where a court finds that a parent is capable of earning more than their current salary or is voluntarily unemployed, the court can increase child support by imputing income to a parent.
A court can impute or assign additional income to a parent under certain circumstances. When a court imputes income, it uses a higher salary amount than what the parent is actually earning for purposes of calculating child support. Hawaii courts may impute income when a parent is purposefully earning less or not working at all to avoid paying child support.
Underemployment is a situation where a parent could be in a higher-paying job but has chosen to pursue employment significantly below their education level or earning potential. Essentially, a parent is underemployed when they could be earning more but choose not to. Factors a court may consider before imputing income to an underemployed parent include:
Voluntary unemployment occurs when a parent is physically and mentally capable of working but chooses not to. Voluntary unemployment can include when a parent quits a good job, intentionally gets fired from their job, or refuses to seek new employment after being laid off or fired.
It's important to note that courts will not impute income when a parent has suffered a legitimate job loss, such as an involuntary termination, layoff or the inability to work as a result of a mental or physical disability.
In determining how much income to assign or impute to a parent, courts can review previous employment records, paystubs, tax returns for the last five years and Department of Labor Statistics for earnings in the same community. If a parent does not provide income information or no prior income information is available, the court may impute income based upon a full-time (40 hours per week) minimum wage job.
The Hawaii Court System maintains a comprehensive website to help those who want to file a child support modification action on their own. Hawaii has legal self-help centers location information and self-help forms available on their site. Go to http://www.courts.state.hi.us. If you have other questions about imputing income for purposes of child support in Hawaii, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.