Imputation of Income
In determining annual gross income for purposes of setting child or spousal support, the court may at its discretion and consistent with the child’s best interests, consider a parent’s “earning capacity” instead of his or her actual income. This means although a parent may not actually be employed, the court may “impute” or designate a certain amount of income to the parent or spouse so long as they have an earning capacity, which is defined as the ability and the opportunity to earn income (these elements are set forth in the Regnery case).
Because of the strong public policy in favor of providing adequate care and support for minor children, family courts are willing to impute income to an non-working parent if the court finds they have an earning capacity. Thus, if a parent/spouse quits their job, voluntarily remains unemployed, or voluntarily reduces their income to avoid paying support, the court has the ability and will likely base that person’s income on their earning capacity rather than their actual gross income.
When determining how much income to impute to an unemployed spouse or parent, the court often looks to prior work history and pay and in certain circumstances a vocational evaluation may be ordered to determine the party’s likely earning capacity.
For more information on child and spousal support, please contact our skilled support attorneys to assist you in your case. The attorneys at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP have years of experience working on support cases and can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Call (619) 284-4113 to set up your initial consultation.