In a divorce action, many might believe that only their current level of income will be the basis for determining how much they have to pay to their spouse or how much they will have to pay in child support. However, this is not always the case.
When income is imputed it means that the courts deem you underemployed based on your knowledge, experience, or education. It could also mean that the courts believe you are unemployed without good reason. The court may view underemployment or lack of employment as an effort on your part to tactfully reduce the amounts that you have to pay for maintenance and/or child support. Keep in mind that in New York a parent’s child support obligation continues until the child becomes emancipated or turns 21.
With regard to imputing income for the purposes of child support payments, courts consider factors such as the past salary of the spouses, the educational background of the spouses; and the attempts made by the spouses to obtain employment if they are unemployed. It is not just income from employment that determines a parent’s child support obligation. Perks from employment such as vehicles or food; tips which are earned off the books; and financial favors from friends and family can also be considered in imputing income.
Notably, however, a parent can avoid the imputation of income by the courts if the parent is unemployed or underemployed because of health conditions or downturns in the parent’s industry or the economy in general, among other reasons.
Overall, as a parent facing a divorce proceeding where maintenance payments or child support is at issue, you must know that courts will not necessarily take your word when it comes to your stated income. If you are unemployed or underemployed this will likely result in income being imputed to you unless you have a valid excuse.