Although parents may end their relationship with one another, both parents have a continuing duty to financially support their children, regardless of whether they are involved in their children’s lives. Parents that hide income or quit a well-paying job to reduce their child support obligation are making a mistake - one that may ultimately backfire.
Illinois courts are equipped to deal with these types of situations by imputing income to the deadbeat parent. This article provides a general overview of how and under what circumstances courts will impute income for child support purposes in Illinois. If after reading this article, you still have questions about imputing income, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Illinois courts may require one or both parents to pay child support regardless of marital misconduct. Illinois maintain state guidelines for calculating child support that assign a percentage of a parent’s net income to child support based upon the number of children as follows:
For purposes of calculating child support, a parent’s net income includes their salary from all sources subtracted by federal and state income tax, social security tax, required retirement contributions, insurance premiums, union dues and child and spousal support obligations to other children or former spouse(s). To learn more, see Child Support in Illinois. In situations where one parent believes that the other is earning less than they should or could be earning without a justifiable reason, a court can increase the amount of child support under the Illinois state guidelines by imputing income to that parent.
When a court imputes income, it assigns a parent a higher salary than what the parent actually earns. For child support purposes, courts may impute income when a parent is capable of earning more, but simply chooses not to. This can include voluntary underemployment or unemployment situations.
An underemployment situation exists when a parent makes an intentional choice or takes action that negatively affects their income. Underemployment situations are not limited just to a parent’s occupational choices. If a court determines that a parent is attempting to avoid a child support obligation or unreasonably failed to take advantage of an employment opportunity, the parent may be deemed underemployed. In determining whether a parent is voluntarily underemployed, courts look at whether the parent’s vocational skills, education and training and a reasonable amount of effort could produce more income. A court may additionally consider the following factors before making a determination that a parent is underemployed:
A voluntary unemployment situation exists when a parent is able to work but instead chooses not to without a medical reason. Voluntary unemployment situations are those where a parent intentionally gets fired, quits their job, or is laid off but refuses to find a new job. Moreover, an unemployed parent who lives off of interest on investments or regularly liquidated assets will still be required to pay child support.
If a court decides that a parent is evading child support obligations through unemployment or underemployment, the court may impute some amount of income. In deciding how much income to impute, courts may review the parent’s employment history, prior tax returns, W-2s, paystubs or any other relevant financial information. However, if the unemployed or underemployed parent does not produce 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. If a parent disagrees with the amount of income imputed, he or she may file documents with the court and show significant, reliable evidence to justify his or her position, such as evidence that income and assets were double-counted.
Illinois maintains a comprehensive state website to help parents who want to file a child support modification action on their own at http://www.state.il.us/court/. If you have other questions about imputing income for purposes of child support in Illinois, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on the factors considered in child support modification actions in Illinois see Illinois Compiled Statutes, Chapter 750, Section 5, Part V.