a dollar sign, child supportIf an Illinois court uses a higher income than what a parent is actually earning to calculate child support payments, it is referred to as imputed income. This may happen if the divorcing spouse is able to prove to the court that the other parent is intentionally earning less than he or she could be by choice. Some divorcing parents will voluntarily earn less or become unemployed in an attempt to lower their child support responsibility.

Determining imputed income

For unemployed parents, courts will often base decisions on what the parent could earn working a minimum wage job. Imputed income is typically applied from the time the parent becomes voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. The judge will evaluate why the parent does not currently have a job or is earning less than he or she could be earning. The judge may hold a hearing and review evidence about the parent’s employment history and current circumstances.

Voluntary underemployment

There are many ways individuals may intentionally earn less than they are able. Courts may impute a higher income to a parent who has delayed bonuses or commissions. The court may take into consideration the work history of the parent in question and make a decision base on the acquired skills, education, and training. The court may also consider the parent’s assets, whether or not he or she recently declined a job promotion and the individual’s mental and physical health. A child support attorney can advise individuals who feel their spouses are attempting to hide assets, conceal income, or voluntarily earn less than they are able just to avoid their full child support responsibility.

Obligations of unemployed parents

If a divorcing parent is able to work but chooses to remain unemployed, the court may deem the parent voluntarily unemployed. A voluntarily unemployed parent may get fired, quit their job, or become unemployed due to downsizing or layoff and make no effort to find employment. If a divorcing parent is unemployed and living off interest from investments or is selling assets to pay living expenses, the parent can still be required to pay child support payments and the court may impute a higher income to the parent based on earning potential. Illinois divorce courts base child support decisions and other matters in a divorce on what the court determines is in the child’s best interest, not what seems fair or unfair to either of the divorcing parents.