Do you think it’s acceptable for the non-custodial parent to have to pay more child support because the custodial parent chooses to barely work or not work at all?
Generally, no, it is not acceptable. In the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah): “Every child is presumed to be in need of the support of the child’s mother and father. Every mother and father shall support their children.” (78B-12-105(1). Duty of parents.) A parent is not legally permitted, by being unemployed or underemployed, to avoid his/her financial support obligations to a child and/or burden the other parent with his/her share of financial responsibility. See Utah Code § 78B-12-203 entitled “Determination of gross income — Imputed income.”
Subsection (8) provides that one, income may not be imputed to a parent unless the parent stipulates to the amount imputed, the parent defaults, or, in contested cases, a hearing is held in a judicial or administrative proceeding and findings of fact as to the evidentiary basis for the imputation are made. If income is imputed to a parent, the income shall be based upon employment potential and probable earnings considering, to the extent known:
(i) employment opportunities;
(ii) work history;
(iii) occupation qualifications;
(iv) educational attainment;
(viii) criminal record;
(ix) other employment barriers and background factors; and
(x) prevailing earnings and job availability for persons of similar backgrounds in the community.
Subsection (8)(c) further provides, “If a parent has no recent work history or a parent’s occupation is unknown, that parent may be imputed an income at the federal minimum wage for a 40-hour work week. To impute a greater or lesser income, the judge in a judicial proceeding or the presiding officer in an administrative proceeding shall enter specific findings of fact as to the evidentiary basis for the imputation.”
Subsection (8)(d) further provides, “Income may not be imputed if any of the following conditions exist and the condition is not of a temporary nature:
(i) the reasonable costs of child care for the parents’ minor children approach or equal the amount of income the custodial parent can earn;
(ii) a parent is physically or mentally unable to earn minimum wage;
(iii) a parent is engaged in career or occupational training to establish basic job skills; or
(iv) unusual emotional or physical needs of a child require the custodial parent’s presence in the home. If you are an underemployed or unemployed parent who believes you can gain the child support system, you are mistaken.
So, in Utah if you you are an underemployed or unemployed parent who believes you can game the child support system, you are mistaken. If you are the other parent who is confronted with an underemployed or unemployed parent who is trying to game the child support system, know that the law is on your side, so long as you can prove that the other parent is underemployed or unemployed and needs to have a reasonable income imputed to him/her for the purpose of determining each parent’s financial child support obligations.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277