Courts in the U.S. enforce the legal principle that parents have a duty to financially support their children, which holds true whether a parent actually has contact with his or her children or whether the parent is fully employed.
Some parents think that if they quit their jobs or hide income, they can minimize or avoid their child support obligation. This article will discuss how the Kentucky courts deal with parents who try to outwit the law on child support by “imputing income” for child support.
Kentucky courts use a guideline formula to establish child support. Both parents’ incomes are plugged into a calculation to determine how much child support should be paid by one parent to the other parent. The law provides a list of what counts as income, such as wages, overtime pay, and commissions. For more information on child support in Kentucky read the article at go to Child Support in Kentucky
Everyone knows someone who has lost a job recently or was forced to take a lower paying job due to the sluggish economy. In those cases, the parent who has been ordered to pay support may be entitled to a reduction in his or her child support obligation.
But if a paying parent deliberately quit a job to avoid paying child support, the court may treat that person as if he or she were still working, meaning that a child support obligation will not be reduced. Instead, the court will attribute income to the paying parent, even if that parent is no longer earning the same amount of income - this is called “imputing income.”
Sometimes the paying parent’s loss of income is due to his or her own bad behavior. For example, if the paying parent-employee stole company equipment and was then fired, that bad behavior caused the job loss. If the receiving parent can show a court that the job loss was the paying parent’s fault, a judge may treat the paying parent as if he is still fully employed for purposes of calculating child support.
Kentucky courts will not reduce a paying parent’s obligation due soley to a parent's incarceration. While incarceration itself is not voluntary, the actions that caused the incarceration usually are. So the jailed paying parent is still responsible for child support. If the paying parent is in jail, his or her assets can be used to satisfy the child support obligation. This means that the court can order the paying parent’s bank accounts or other property turned over the receiving parent.
What about the case where the paying parent has taken a job that pays considerably less than what he or she earned in the past? For example, the registered nurse who gets a job as a daycare worker may expect the child support obligation to be reduced. This is called “underemployment.” If the judge thinks the nurse is deliberately earning less to lower the child support order, the judge may base the order on the previous, higher salary.
For paying parents who have suffered an involuntary job loss or reduction in income, it is very important to establish that the loss or reduction in income was not your fault. It is vital to prove why the job was lost. If the receiving parent questions the reason for the job loss, the paying parent should provide any documentation that proves why he or she was laid off.
It is also critical to show all efforts to find a new job. If the paying parent is using the internet, he or she should print out all completed job applications. He or she should provide the names and contact info of all employment agencies that are being used or potential employers who have been contacted. It is always better to have more printed documentation that you ever think you will need in the event that the reason for your income loss is challenged as being voluntary.
Imputed income means that the court will credit the paying parent with income that he or she is not actually earning. As explained above, when a paying parent has deliberately done something to minimize or eliminate income, the court will not reward this behavior by reducing the paying parent’s child support obligation.
Consequently, the child support obligation will be artificially high, given the paying parent’s actual earnings. This may seem like a hardship for the paying parent. However, the law wants to discourage parents from deblierately trying to avoid their responsibilities to support their children.
In Kentucky, judges can impute income without actually finding that the paying parent’s goal was to reduce the child support obligation. The court can merely rule that the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.
If a court rules that the paying parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, it will then determine what the paying parent is capable of earning based on the following factors:
The state law that governs child support is in the Kentucky Revised Statutes at KRS 403.212.
For on line help, go to http://chfs.ky.gov/dis/cse.htm