California law holds parents equally responsible for the financial support of their children, and courts typically assume that the parent with whom the child lives spends money to support the child. Accordingly, the other parent is usually required to pay child support payments. If the child spends equal time with both parents, the higher-earning parent usually pays child support.

What Is Imputed Income?

A problem frequently arises when the parent against whom child support payments will be assessed suffers a dramatic decrease in income after divorce proceedings begin. This leads to the suspicion that this drop was engineered to reduce child support obligations. Courts often deal with this situation by imputing income to a parent whose income suffers a suspicious drop.  

“Imputing income” means treating a parent as if his income is higher than it actually is – and assessing child support accordingly. This might happen if there is no reasonable explanation for the drop in income. The court may impute income to the level that the parent enjoyed before the drop in income, or it may impute income to the parent’s reasonable earning capacity.

Voluntary Unemployment/Underemployment

A court will impute income only if the parent’s unemployment or underemployment was voluntary. Although involuntary unemployment or underemployment is not considered a justification for imputing income, it is the parent whose obligations are being assessed who bears the burden of proving that the unemployment or underemployment is truly involuntary.

Invalid reasons for voluntary unemployment/underemployment include:

  • Retiring (uness retirement is mandatory)

  • Being fired for misconduct or illegal activity

  • Quitting work or reducing hours to go back to school

  • Quitting or reducing hours to make a career change (sometimes)

  • Quitting a job to start one’s own business

  • Quitting work or reducing hours for any other unnecessary reason

  • Failing to make diligent efforts to secure new employment

  • Failing to use or invest assets in a reasonable and prudent manner

Involuntary Unemployment/Underemployment

A California court will not impute income due to unemployment or underemployment that is truly involuntary. It is unlikely to impute income, for example, if one parent initiated divorce proceedings because of the other parent’s drop in income. This is because it is unlikely that the parent suffering a drop in income was motivated by a desire to reduce future child support payments.

Act Today – Procrastination Can be Dangerous

The best time to seek professional legal advice relating to a child support issue is the moment that you anticipate the issue. That being said, it is not necessarily too late to achieve an optimal result even if you have a court-imposed deadline bearing down on you.

At CKB Vienna, we will not let the legal system take advantage of you. We  serve clients all over Upland, Fontana, Ontario, Chino Hills, Claremont, Rancho Cucamonga, including Alta Loma and Etiwanda. Call us at 909-980-1040 or fill out our online intake form to learn how we can help you.