A parent that quits a well-paying executive job to work as the local burger joint cashier in a misguided attempt to reduce his or her child support obligation, is making a mistake. Regardless of whether a parent is emotionally involved in a child’s life, both parents have a duty to financially support their child. Moreover, a parent’s obligation to financially support their child does not end merely because a job does.
While some job changes are outside a parent’s control, other times a parent may quit a well-paying job as a way to avoid child support. However, Wyoming courts are prepared to deal with these types of situations and can impute income to parents who try to avoid their child support obligations.
This article provides a general overview of how and under what circumstances courts will impute income for child support purposes in Wyoming. If after reading this article, you still have questions about imputing income, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Wyoming has created statutory guidelines for calculating child support. The amount of child support ordered in a case is largely dependent upon these guidelines and the reported incomes of the parents. For child support purposes, a parent’s monthly income includes their salary, wages, overtime, commissions, tips, severance pay, bonuses, dividends, social security and capital gains. A parent’s net income is the amount of a parent’s actual paycheck after deductions like taxes and child support obligations to other children have been paid. If a court determines that a parent is voluntarily earning less than they could or should be earning, the court may impute income to that parent for child support purposes and increase that parent’s child support obligation accordingly. See Child Support in Wyoming (Nolo) to learn more.
Courts may impute income in situations where a parent is capable of earning more, but the parent has chosen earn less without a medical reason. This can include both voluntary unemployment or underemployment situations. When a court imputes income, it will assign a higher salary to a parent than what the parent actually earns for purposes of child support.
A parent is voluntary unemployed when the parent is physically able to work but elects not to. A parent that cares full-time for a disabled child or adult or is too ill to work, is not voluntarily unemployed. Rather, voluntary unemployment situations exist when a parent quits their job, intentionally gets fired, or is laid off but refuses to seek new employment opportunities without justification.
An underemployment situation exists when a parent takes any action that negatively affects their income. This can include delaying a bonus, refusing a promotion or quitting a well-paying corporate job to make minimum wage at a burger joint. In considering whether a parent is voluntarily underemployed, courts look at the parent’s work history, education, age and health to decide whether with a little effort, the parent could produce more income.
Once a court has determined that a parent is avoiding child support obligations through an unemployment or underemployment situation, the court will review the parent’s employment history. To decide how much income to impute, Wyoming courts will review the parent’s prior tax returns, check stubs or other relevant financial information. The court may also assess the following factors:
Nevertheless, even after income has been imputed, either parent may file documents with the court to decrease or increase the amount imputed to a parent based on reliable and clear evidence.
Wyoming maintains a state website to help parents who want to file a child support modification action on their own at www.courts.state.wy.us/ If you have other questions about imputing income for purposes of child support in Wyoming contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on the factors considered in child support modification actions in Wyoming see Wyoming Statutes, Title 20, Chapter 2, Article 3.