Imputing Income
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Imputing Income

Imputing Income

If one spouse is either voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the other spouse can ask for the judge to impute income to that spouse for alimony or child support purposes.  Imputing income is never a guarantee, but it can be a powerful motivator to encourage an unemployed or underemployed spouse to obtain appropriate employment.

When a judge imputes income, that means the judge is assuming one spouse could be earning more money and will use a higher-than-actual number for that spouse’s income when analyzing alimony or child support.

For example, let’s say Jack and Jill are divorcing.  Jack works odd jobs, and he used to have a full-time job that paid $50,000 annually.  Now, he makes about $20,000 per year since he quit his higher paying job last year.  Jill needs either alimony or child support.  Jill thinks Jack could easily get his old job back, or another job that pays as well as his old job.  She can ask the judge to calculate child support based on Jack making $50,000 per year rather than $20,000.  If the judge agrees, that “extra” $30,000 added to Jack’s income is called “imputed income.”

You need evidence as to why income should be imputed.  If you are asking the judge to impute income to your ex, you will need evidence that they are making less than they could be making.  Your ex’s past work history, the field in which they work, their educational history, their efforts to find a better job, and the circumstances surrounding their job loss are all important.  You will also need to prove what they could be making if they wanted to earn more.  This will be done in an evidentiary hearing, with all of the formalities of a trial.  Often, a vocational rehabilitation expert is used in court and without an expert witness you may not be able to impute income appropriately.  The hearing would include opening statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, the introduction of evidence, objections, legal argument, and closing arguments.  You should have an experienced Family Law and Divorce expert such as Mr. Radeline assist you during this process.

Imputing income for alimony:  The spouse requesting alimony, or the spouse opposing alimony, may request the judge to impute income to the other spouse.  So keep in mind it can be a two-way street.  Maybe the spouse requesting alimony is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.  In that instance, the spouse who is being asked to pay alimony could request income be imputed to their ex.  Of course, the spouse requesting alimony can ask for income to be imputed to the alimony-paying ex.

Imputing income for child support:  Either parent can request income be imputed to the other parent for child support purposes.  So, let’s say Mary is going to be paying child support to Joe.  If Joe thinks Mary is earning far less than she could be earning, he could request that income be imputed to Mary.  By imputing income to her for child support purposes, she would pay him more child support.  Conversely, if Mary thought Joe was capable of making more than he is currently earning, she could request that income be imputed to Joe.  If the request is granted by the judge, imputing additional income to Joe will decrease Mary’s child support obligation to Joe.

Imputing income is neither common nor rare.  What I mean is that you certainly don’t see it in most cases, but it’s not something that is unheard of either.  It is something that becomes an issue in a minority of cases.  If you are unsure whether imputed income might be a factor in your case, discuss it with us by calling 727-785-1540.