Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Friday, August 5, 2016

Imputed Income & Child Support Obligations

What can you do when your spouse tries to circumvent the law during or post-divorce proceedings?  Spouses often resort to this tactic in order to avoid their child support payments and obligations.  

Child support payments often consist of school costs, child care, and medical care expenses, and must be paid by the non-custodial parent until the child’s twenty-first birthday.  An attorney can estimate what you will owe by relying on the designated percentages under “New York’s Child Support Guidelines.”  For example, the percentage of a spouse’s income that is set aside for one child is 17%, for two it is 25%, and for three it is 29%.  However, any excess income over the threshold of $136,000, may be allocated differently.  

One of the factors considered for determination of child support payments is a spouse’s employment income.  Knowing this, a spouse may purposely seek a lower paying job or lessen their work hours to decrease their payment obligations that are required by law.  This is where “imputed income” comes into play under N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 413.  A court will estimate a spouse’s earning capability if he or she is purposely not working, or is even holding a job that pays significantly lower than his or her earning potential. 

The court may request federal tax returns to inquire into a spouse’s previous earnings as well.  Additionally, income earned from other sources, such as various benefits received from a job, and the parent’s degrees or other accolades, will be considered.  The court also takes into account any “disability, unemployment, social security, veterans, or retirement benefits” to the exclusion of certain public assistance monies, alimony, or taxes.   Lastly, the court may even value other assets held by the spouse, which may include the ownership of real estate and the receipt of gifts. 

If the parent is not utilizing his or her “best efforts” to attain a suitable job, this will also be weighed against the non-custodial spouse.  However, if the parent had to take the lower-paid job, one he or she would otherwise be overqualified for, due to unintentional factors, such as a health issue, industry decline, being laid off, or other “material” changes in circumstances, then he or she will not be reprimanded.  Seek the advice of a licensed family law attorney to assess your rights and legal options.

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