Missouri Child Support Guidelines and Case Law - Part 2 - Imputed Income

What happens when a parent tries to avoid a child support obligation because they are not working or only have a small amount of income? Well, in the eyes of the Court, that parent will be treated as if they did have income sufficient to pay the child support. The most common situation is when it is apparent that a parent is not working specifically to avoid child support, but there are many factors that the Court can consider when making this decision. This can happen in a divorce, paternity, or child support case, and it is called “imputed” income. The court can consider any relevant factor, and recent cases say the following:

For the non-custodial parent

  • Any imputed income must be within a parent’s capacity to earn, and if a parent earned a different income prior to trial the court should consider that income in calculating retroactive child support.
  • Even if a parent did not try to evade child support, the court can impute higher income than earned if the parent has the earning capacity.
  • Imputed income must be supported by evidence, not speculation, and the court record must reflect how the income was figured.
  • The income imputed to an underemployed or unemployed parent must be according to what they could earn if using their best efforts to find employment
  • The court can impute income if a parent has voluntarily and deliberately become unemployed, and a court should not do so if there is no showing of an attempt to evade responsibility
  • If a parent is terminated and does not use best efforts to find new employment, refuses offers, or fails to show unemployment is only temporary, income may be imputed

For the custodial parent

  • Factors include age, maturity of the child, availability of child care givers, relationship between the expense of child care and the net income the parent would receive, the reasons the parent stays home with the child.
  • A court may not treat imputation of income on the Form 14 different than its maintenance calculation

Next installment: Adjustments to income for child support, maintenance, health insurance, and medical costs