Imputing Income In Child Support Cases 101: Q & A

In Virginia, and most other states, a court can impute income on a parent who is not making enough money (or any money at all) for the purposes of determining that parent’s child support obligation. This means that the judge assumes you could be (or should be) earning more money than you are when calculating the amount of child support you have to pay. Here is a brief Q & A regarding the imputation of income in Virginia child support cases.

– The Court Must Impute Income If I Am Voluntarily Underemployed or Unemployed Entirely, Right?

Contrary to popular belief, the judge is not required to impute income if you are voluntarily underemployed or completely unemployed – though we recommend adequate employment, if possible. Rather; the standard guiding Virginia courts is found in Section 20-108.1(B)(3) of the Virginia Code. According to this statute, the judge must consider the reasonable and good faith of your employment decisions, which includes your attendance and completion of a work training or vocational program that is likely to maintain or enhance your earning potential.

– What If The Court Decides That My Employment Decisions Have Not Been Made In Good Faith Or Are Unreasonable?

Then you’re out of luck! Failure to make reasonable and/or good faith employment decisions requires the court to impute income (onto you) when deciding the amount of child support you will have to pay.

Similarly, if you are convicted of a crime and are sentenced to jail or prison, the court is obligated—absent extreme circumstances—to impute income, despite the fact that committing a crime is not an employment decision. This is true, even if your incarceration is for an extended period of time. Under such circumstances, the court will likely look at your past earnings history when calculating the amount of child support you must pay.

– What If, After Consideration Of All The Factors Listed In The Virginia Child Support Guidelines, The Imputation Of Income Seems Unjust?

Imputing income for unreasonable and/or bad faith is only one factor the court must consider when determining child support, the judge is not required to impute income (despite poor or disingenuous employment decisions) if he or she determines that after consideration of the other factors, in total, imputing income would be unjust or inappropriate.

– What If I Have No Recent Past Earnings That The Court Can Use As A Benchmark For Imputing Income?

While your (recent) earnings history is typically the standard for imputing income, if you do not have a recent earnings history, the court may need to hear testimony from a vocational expert as to your abilities and earnings potential. The court may also consider your level of education or vocational training.

If you are dealing with a child support issue, whether or not you are concerned about the imputation of income, or have any other family law matter, you should consult with one of the family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group. Our lawyers are experienced with all family law issues in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. Contact us today at (888) 530-4374.

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