Imputing Income for Child Support in Idaho

Understanding the process of imputing income in Idaho and its impact on child support.

In a misguided attempt to avoid paying child support, some parents may take low-paying work or quit their job altogether. Hiding income to avoid paying child support is a bad idea. Regardless of whether a parent is emotionally involved in a child’s life, both parents have a duty to financially support their child.

In a situation where one parent is trying to shirk their financial responsibility to their child, courts can impute income to a parent to deal with a voluntary unemployment or underemployment situation. This article provides a general overview of how and when courts impute income for child support purposes in Idaho. If after reading this article, you still have questions about imputing income, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.

Overview of Child Support Orders

Idaho has created state statutory guidelines for calculating child support. The amount of child support ordered in a case is heavily dependent upon these guidelines and the reported income of the parents. However, in certain circumstances, child support can also be based upon the financial resources of the parents, standard of living of the parents, and the child’s physical and educational needs. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed, under reports or hides their income, a court can increase child support by imputing income to a parent. See Child Support Laws in Idaho for more information.

When Can a Court Impute Income?

A court can impute, or assign additional income to a parent when it finds that a parent is capable of earning more than their current salary. By imputing income, a court will use a higher salary amount than what the parent is actually earning for purposes of calculating child support. Idaho courts can impute income if the judge finds that a parent made an intentional decision to earn less by being voluntary unemployed or underemployed.

Underemployment

Underemployment means a parent could be in a better-paying job but has chosen to pursue employment significantly below their abilities or education. Simply, a parent is underemployed when they could be earning more but choose not to. The following are factors a court may consider when imputing income to an underemployed parent:

  • the parent turned down a promotion
  • the parent recently earned more
  • the parent is working less than full-time (40 hours per week) without a medical reason, or
  • the parent delayed receiving a bonus or commission.

Voluntary Unemployment

Voluntary unemployment happens when a parent is able to work but simply chooses not to. This can include situations where a parent quit their job, intentionally got fired, or was laid off but refuses to seek new employment.

How Much Income Will a Court Impute?

In deciding how much income to impute, courts can review a parent’s employment history, paystubs, tax returns for the last 5 years, and Department Department of Labor Statistics for earnings in the same community. However, a court cannot impute income to a parent at a higher salary level than what the parent earned previously. If a parent does not provide income information or no income information is available for a parent, the court may impute income based upon a full-time (40 hours per week) minimum wage job to the voluntarily unemployed or underemployed parent. The parent that is trying to to impute income bears the burden to show that an unemployment or underemployment situation exists and is not due to a medical condition.

Resources

The Idaho Court System maintains a website to help parents who want to file a child support modification action on their own. Go to www.idcourts.us. If you have other questions about imputing income for purposes of child support in Idaho, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.

You can read the full text of Idaho’s Child Support Guidelines here. For more information on the factors considered in child support amount in Idaho see Idaho Code Section 32-706.

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