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Calculating Child Support With Imputed Income

Denver Child Support Attorneys

According to U.S. Census data, parents paid approximately $33.7 billion for child support in 2015 alone. Only 43.5 percent of the 6.8 million custodial single parents who were awarded child support in 2015 collected all of the money that they deserved. Sometimes, noncustodial parents can’t pay the proper amount of child support because of underemployment or unemployment. If this is the case, they may qualify for imputed income. Whatever the case may be, attorneys at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton want to make sure you and your kids are taken care of. Call us today at 303-951-4506.
imputed income

What Does Imputed Income Mean?

Imputed income is income that a court assigns to a parent when they’re clearly underemployed or unemployed. Judges impute money to ensure that a child’s basic necessities are covered and to discourage parents from giving up their obligations. The parent requesting to impute income must show that the other parent is either hiding money or that they could be earning significantly more. In order to show this, they must present the other parent’s tax returns, employment history, educational records, etc. Basically, any other evidence that indicates the parent is making major purchases while claiming to have little money is crucial proof. The most common reason that a parent may need their income imputed immediately is due to unemployment or underemployment. However if a judge determines that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed to avoid paying child support, then they won’t impute income to a parent. This is because the parent is obviously acting in bad faith by trying to cheat the system.

Determining Potential Income

Even if one spouse is struggling financially, they must still pay child support somehow. This is when a court may impute income so that the child is properly provided for. Basically, a parent must prove that their actual income wasn’t voluntarily reduced for the sake of getting out of child support obligations. In order to determine what a parent’s income should be, a judge will investigate these things:

  • 5 years worth of salary
  • Educational level
  • Job history, especially new employment from the last few weeks or months
  • Occupational qualifications
  • Reasons for leaving a former position

A court will allocate each parent an appropriate amount of income based on the elements listed above. This only applies to parents who have been out of work for a long time. If this is the case, a judge may impute a full-time minimum wage income to that parent.

Determining Earning Capacity

A noncustodial parent claiming that they can’t make child support payments because they lost their job or their earning capacity is too low, may qualify for imputation of income with proper proof. Before judges impute income, they will likely determine the parent’s earning capacity through these questions:

  • Are you able to work?
  • Do you have the opportunity to work?
  • Are you willing to work?

Full-time employment history, education, and work skills will prove the ability to work. Parental behavior, active job hunting, and attending interviews will prove the willingness to work. Available jobs (in the appropriate field) in the local area will prove the opportunity to work.

If a parent has the ability and opportunity to work, a court can assess how much to impute by reviewing evidence based on the elements listed above. The court would also consider the pay scale for a job that a parent would be qualified for. Additionally, the court may impute a payment based on the parent’s most recent salary. If it’s difficult to calculate how much that parent could earn, the court may impute minimum wage. The actual amount that courts impute will vary on a case by case basis.

Uncovering Hidden Assets

If you suspect that your ex spouse is hiding assets in order to reduce his or her obligation for child support, it’s important to have an experienced child support lawyer on your side. Hiding assets is a legal issue that will greatly impact a court’s ability to impute income to a parent. Colorado family law attorneys at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton will work to uncover these hidden assets by investigating the ex spouse’s bank records, paystubs, business records, and more.

imputed income

How Courts Decide on Child Support Amount

There is no national rule on how much child support should be awarded to the custodial parent every year. So it’s up to individual states to determine appropriate child support amounts. This is generally done on a case by case basis, because each parent’s income, work ethic, and responsibility levels are different. Additionally, each child and their specific needs are different.

Child Support Criteria

When it comes to actually deciding on a child support order, courts and judges will take all the aforementioned factors about imputed income into consideration along with the factors listed below.

  • Specific Needs of the Child. The best interest of the child and their specific needs are the ultimate priority when it comes to determining an appropriate child support payment for the non custodial parent. Therefore, courts will consider the child’s healthcare necessities, education bills, day care bills, and any special needs they have.
  • A Parent’s Income. How much income parents bring in as well as a parent’s ability to make child support payments is another important factor in determining child support obligations. A court will require each parent to submit their financial statements and earnings history to help determine the exact amount of child support. 
  • The Child’s Age. Most states require a non custodial parent to pay child support obligations until the child is 18 years old. However, in Colorado specifically, state law requires a non custodial parent to follow through with their child support order until the child is 19 years old.
  • Amount of Children. A court will certainly base a child support obligation on other factors such as how many children the parents share and whether the other parent has children from a separate relationship.
  • A Child’s Standard of Living Before Divorce. A court will do everything in its power to ensure the child has the same standard of living before and after divorce. If that means it has to alter the child support obligation, then that’s what it will do.

What’s the Average Amount of Child Support Paid Annually in America?

According to the U.S. Census data from 2015, parents paid an average of $5,760 annually for child support. That is less than $500 every month. However, custodial parents only received an average of $3,447 annually. This means that the average amount of child support money that custodial parents received monthly was about $287 in 2015.

Call Family Law Attorneys at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton Today

A child support attorney at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton wants to make sure you receive an appropriate amount of child support every month so that you can properly care for your children. Additionally, we want to make sure your income is imputed correctly during the child support calculation process. Some of the legal services we offer include child support for high income earners, paternity law in Colorado, and child relocation in Denver. For more information on how we can help you, call our Denver office today at 303-951-4506.