A down economy may leave a hard-working parent jobless. However, a deadbeat parent may purposefully end up without a job or with a low-paying job in an attempt to reduce his or her child support obligation. Oregon courts are able to distinguish between unemployment situations within and outside a parent’s control and can impute income to parents who quit work to avoid their child support obligations.
Regardless of whether a parent is emotionally or physically involved in his or her child’s life, both parents have a legal duty to financially support their child. Parents that shirk their financial responsibilities ultimately hurt not only themselves, but also their children.
This article provides a general overview of how and under what circumstances courts will impute income for child support purposes in Oregon. If after reading this article, you still have questions about imputing income, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Oregon maintains statutory guidelines for calculating child support based primarily upon the incomes of the child’s parents. For child support purposes, a parent’s income includes their salary, wages, overtime, commissions, tips, severance pay, veteran’s benefits, bonuses, dividends, social security and capital gains. In certain circumstances, a court may adjust a parent’s child support obligation based upon the following:
When a court determines that a parent is voluntarily earning less than they could or should be earning, the court may impute or assign, additional income to that parent, increasing their child support obligation accordingly. See Child Support in Oregon (Nolo) to learn more.
When a court imputes income, it will assign income to a parent beyond what the parent presently earns for purposes of calculating child support. Courts can impute income when a parent is unemployed, not working full-time or earning less than their full potential. In Oregon, a court may impute or assign income to a parent for child support purposes after reviewing the parent’s work history, qualifications, education and medical condition and finding that the parent is capable of earning more. This can include both voluntary unemployment or underemployment situations.
However, in Oregon the following are not considered voluntary unemployment or underemployment situations and potential income may not be imputed to:
A parent is underemployed when that parent make an employment decision that negatively affects their income. This can include refusing a promotion, delaying a bonus or commission or quitting a well-paying job to pursue minimum wage employment. Oregon courts will review the parent’s job history, education, health and age and determine whether the parent could reasonably produce more income and determine ultimately if an underemployment situation exists.
A parent is voluntarily unemployed when the parent is able to work but chooses not to without justification. A parent that cares full-time for a disabled child or adult or is too ill to work is not voluntarily unemployed. Rather, a voluntary unemployment situation exists when a parent quits their job, intentionally gets fired, or is laid off but refuses to seek new employment opportunities without justification.
Once a court has determined that a parent could and should be earning more due to a voluntary unemployment or underemployment situation, the court will review the parent’s employment history and education as well as financial information such as prior tax returns, check stubs or other relevant financial information. If no financial information exists for the allegedly underemployed or voluntarily unemployed parent, the court will impute a full-time minimum wage income to the parent.
However, even after income has been imputed by the court, either parent may file documents to decrease or increase the amount imputed to a parent based on clear evidence.
Oregon maintains a state website to help parents who want to file a child support modification action on their own atwww.courts.oregon.gov. If you have other questions about imputing income for purposes of child support in Oregon contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on the factors considered in child support modification actions and imputing income in Oregon, see Oregon Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 25.275.