Oftentimes, when a marriage or relationship is over, hostility lingers. Unfortunately, animosity between parents can take the form of arguments over the children. A very common area of contention is child support, as typically one parent is court-ordered to pay the other parent (the receiving parent) child support on behalf of the children.
A child support order can become a weapon when the paying parent uses it to get back at the receiving parent. This commonly occurs when the paying parent tries to reduce child support order by minimizing his or her income.
This article discusses how Kansas courts can impute income to paying parents in order to deal with their efforts to evade child support orders. If your situation presents similar challenges, you should consult with an experienced Kansas family law attorney in your area.
Kansas state law has formalized calculating child support orders. Up until 1987, trial judges ordered what seemed fair under the circumstances. Since that time, the courts have adopted a formula used to determine child support, which is based primarily on both parents’ gross incomes. For more in-depth information on Kansas child support law, seeChild Support in Kansas (Nolo).
When the paying parent loses a job, he or she may be entitled to a reduction in child support. However, the receiving parent can challenge the reason for the unemployment.
If the receiving parent proves that the paying parent’s job loss is voluntary or intentional, a court is not likely to reduce child support, and a judge may even “impute income” to the paying parent. When a judge "imputes income," he or she attributes or assigns additional income to the paying parent and then bases child support on the higher amount of income.
The primary question for a judge who is considering the imputation of income will be whether the paying parent’s loss of income is involuntary or voluntary.
There are many instances where a parent may become unemployed or underemployed for reasons that are beyond his or her control. Some common examples include:
When the paying parent has involuntarily lost a job or suffered a loss of income, he or she may request a reduction in child support, and a court is unlikely to impute income.
However, as stated above, the receiving parent may challenge any reduction in child support. In response, the paying parent will need to prove how the job was lost and show that it was beyond his or her control.
In cases where the paying parent is physically and mentally able to work, he or she will also have to show diligent efforts to find another job. The paying parent should keep records of all job-seeking efforts including; email inquiries regarding job opportunities, a written log of every company or potential employer contacted, copies of submitted applications and resumes, and any other correspondence or documents showing a good faith effort to find employment.
In some cases, it’s pretty obvious that the paying parent is intentionally trying to avoid paying child support. For example, just before a child support hearing, a paying parent may quit a stable job for no apparent reason. Absent a good explanation, this will look like a blatant attempt to avoid paying support.
In other cases, more investigation is needed. The receiving parent may discover, for example, that the paying parent was fired because he or she deliberately violated company rules. In this case, the court will likely find that the paying parent’s loss of income is voluntary and therefore, will not reduce child support. This holds true regardless of whether the paying parent was trying to avoid paying child support or not.
There are circumstances where the paying parent is intentionally working at a lower paying job to minimize the support obligation. This tactic is called “underemployment.”
For instance, the paying parent has been working as a police officer for several years and then suddenly decides to take a lower-paying job in store security. The receiving parent may be able to show the court that the paying parent-police officer has deliberately taken a job that pays far less than what he or she could earn as a police officer. In this situation, the court could rule that the paying parent is intentionally “underemployed” or not working at his or her full potential.
In both of these cases, courts are likely to impute income.
Imputed income means that the court will attribute income to the paying parent that he or she is not actually earning. In the above examples, the paying parent is voluntarily lowering income by either having no job or by earning less than in the past.
If the judge finds that the paying parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the judge will base the child support obligation on what the paying parent should be earning or earned in the past.
Before the court imputes income, the judge must determine that the paying parent is capable of working. The court can examine the following factors to decide whether imputing income is appropriate in any given case:
In some instances, where the paying parent’s employer covers certain living expenses or perks for the paying parent, such as meals or a car, Kansas courts may impute the reasonable value of these benefits as income. For example, if the paying parent gets to use a company car for transportation, the court may include the reasonable value of this benefit as part of the paying parent’s income when calculating child support.
The Kansas child support law is located in the Kansas Statutes at KSA 23-3001.