Imputing Income for Child Support in Nevada

Learn why and how courts impute income for child support in Nevada.

Statistically, a large percentage of parents will see their relationships end in a break-up or a divorce. If that happens, both parents will be obligated to provide for at least a portion of the financial support of their children. Typically the non-custodial parent (the parent with less parenting time) pays child support to the other custodial parent or "receiving parent."

It can be tempting for exes to try to retaliate against each other, and sadly, one of the ways paying parents try to do this is by skipping out on all of part of their child support obligations. But child support belongs to the child, not the adults. Child support can only be used to pay for a child's needs; the custodial parent or "receiving parent" simply collects this money on behalf of the child. So paying parents who don't pay child support in full are only hurting their own children.

When paying parents try to avoid paying child support, the courts sometimes respond by "imputing" income to them. This means that the court issues a child support order that assumes the paying parent is working as per usual.

This article will explain when and how courts impute income for child support purposes in Nevada. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for help.

What do I Need to Know About a Nevada Child Support Order?

When a couple has children together and their relationship ends in a break-up or a divorce, there are two possible outcomes:

  • The parents talk with each other and reach an agreement about child support.
  • If the parents can't agree, a judge will step in and make child support decisions for them.

It's always best to work out an agreement if you can. When judges make decisions, there's no way for them to understand the subtleties of your life with your child, and they might not issue an order that you think is best for your child. Making a decision with your ex helps you remain in control of the situation.

Nevada is a guidelines child support state. This means that the paying parent has to pay a certain percentage of gross monthly income to the receiving parent, depending on the amount of available income and the number of children the couple has together, as reflected on the percentages and the table on this page. Gross monthly income is all income from every source, and it includes some things you'd expect, like salary, wages, tips, bonuses, and commissions. It also includes some things you might not have expected, like pension and social security payments, unemployment compensation, and disability benefits. For more information about what's included in adjusted gross income and how child support is calculated in Nevada, please see Child Support in Nevada (Nolo).

Upon a parent's request, child support orders can be changed after three years. You can ask for a change before that if the paying parent's gross monthly income has increased or decreased by 20%, which is known in the law as a "change in circumstances" that affects the ability to pay support.

What if the Paying Parent Stops Working or Claims to Have no Income?

There are some clear fact patterns that emerge in cases where paying parents fail to pay child support in the amount ordered by the judge:

  • The paying parent voluntarily became unemployed. For example, a paying parent outright quit a job or intentionally performed badly until the employer has no choice but to fire the parent.
  • The paying parent voluntarily became "underemployed." Underemployment means that the paying parent is working but isn't bringing in the amount of income the parent is capable of earning. This is common in situations where the parent asked for a schedule reduction or accepted a position with less responsibility and less pay.

When these situations exist, Nevada judges will impute income to the paying parent (meaning, the judge will assign the amount that the court thinks the paying parent could have earned) when they calculate guidelines child support. Income is imputed when a parent makes a voluntary choice that results in the reduction of income.

But what if a paying parent is involuntarily unemployed or involuntarily underemployed? For example, what if a paying parent's employer issues company-wide layoffs or reduces the paying parent's hourly wages or schedule? In these cases, the court won't impute income. The reason is that the parent hasn't lost income due to a willful and voluntary choice; the loss of income was involuntary, and Nevada law only allows imputation of income in cases where a parent is willfully (meaning, by choice) underemployed or unemployed. If you're in this situation, be sure to keep good records so you can prove to a judge that your situation is involuntary and you're trying to find work.

What is Imputed Income?

When the court totals up the amount of income that a paying parent could and should have been earning and includes it in a child support order, the court is "imputing" income to the paying parent. By imputing income, the judge is saying that the paying parent is capable of paying more child support and should have had earned wages or a salary in the imputed amount. Imputed income is assigned to a parent who doesn't actually have the money, but who the court believes should be responsible anyway.

When a paying parent is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed, there is a presumption (a legal assumption) in Nevada that the unemployment or underemployment is for the purposes of intentionally avoiding a child support obligation. This means that if the paying parent goes to court, the judge will take the initial stance that the underemployment is a way to shirk the child support order. The paying parent will have to overcome this by presenting evidence to show that the parent isn't trying to avoid the obligation and that the reason the parent isn't working harder is involuntary and outside the parent's control.

Resources

Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (Child Support Section)

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125B.070

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125B.080

Barry v. Lindner, 119 Nev. 661 (2003)

Minnear v. Minnear, 107 Nev. 495 (1991)

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