Our Wichita Family Law Firm often hears from parties contemplating a divorce involving children or a paternity action where the other parent threatens to quit working to avoid child support. Although this is usually a hollow and ill-advised threat, we see many panicked parents who function as the primary caretaker for their children. These parents would not be able to make ends meet without a financial contribution from the other parent. While it is advisable to seek legal representation if the non-residential parent indicates that he or she is planning to change jobs or quit work to avoid child support, experienced Kansas Family Law Attorney Joseph Weber frequently asks the court to “impute” income to the other parent to negate such shenanigans.
While Kansas child support was based on what a judge deemed fair up until 1987, the state now calculates support for children of a relationship on a formula that weighs the income of each parent as a primary consideration. Given the important role of the income of a paying parent in the determination of child support, some parents naturally decide they can “game” the system by taking a job with lower pay, quitting work entirely, or reducing their hours of employed.
A judge often will “impute” income to the unemployed or underemployed parent, which essentially means that the calculation of the paying parent’s income will be based on what he should be earning based on training, education, experience, and employment history. A parent who has been working as an attorney for the last seven years, for example, might decide to quit and work as a grocery bagger prior to a child support hearing. The paying parent who has made this job change might well be obligated to pay child support based on his salary as an attorney rather than a bagger.
When a court considers the issue of imputing income to the paying spouse, the process involves an evaluation of whether the change in employment is voluntary or involuntary. If the unemployment or underemployment (i.e. earning below capacity) is the product of a voluntary act or decision by the parent, the court will be inclined to impute income based on earning ability and history rather than actual income. While downsizing, an emotional or physical disability, or a loss in commission because of changed market conditions are obvious examples of involuntary loss of income, the intentional violation of a work rule that leads to the parent’s firing might be deemed voluntary. If the change in employment or income is voluntary, the judge might impute income to the paying spouse.
If you have questions about divorce, child custody, paternity, alimony, and/or child support, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions. We invite you to call the Wichita Estate Planning Attorney at the Weber Law Office at (316) 265-7802, or to submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.