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Imputed income

Imputed income may be needed to determine the proper amount of child support and alimony that a party should pay or receive. A spouse may be unwilling to return to work after a divorce and seek enhanced child support and or alimony to allow him or her to remain at home. But the law requires both parents to work to support their children or themselves unless there is a good, practical reason that they are unable to do so. Or, a party may reduce his or her work hours and income to avoid paying appropriate child support or alimony: But the courts will not allow this voluntary unemployment.

If a party reports a low income on his financial affidavit and is showing a deficit between his monthly income and his expenses, but the level of monthly debt does not match the income shortage, that unexplained discrepancy is evidence of hidden income. That "hidden income" may then be imputed to the under reporting party. If a party is receiving regular amounts of financial help from his or her family, for instance paying rent or car payments, that regular assistance can be deemed income to that party. A self-employed party may be paying personal expenses from his or her business. In that case, those expenses can be treated as his or her income.

A court can make a finding that an unemployed or under employed party could earn a reasonable living, impute that income to the party and then base the child support or alimony on that imputed income. This can be used to increase the child support or alimony paid by a party. Or it can be used reduce the child support or alimony received by a party.

If it can be shown that a lack of employment or under employment is due to a less than diligent effort to seek employment at a pay level formerly enjoyed, the court may impute income based upon a finding of what could be reasonably earned in the local economy. To do this, the court is required to consider the party's recent work history, his or her occupational qualifications and the present level of earnings in the local community. If it can be shown by substantial competent evidence that the party can find employment at his or her prior level of earnings, that prior level of earnings will be imputed when the need and ability to pay child support and or alimony is determined.

This is an area where the use of an experienced attorney can be a necessity. If you need my help, go to my web site at www.peppler or call my office for a consult.

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