In this week’s family law blog, we’re continuing to talk about child support, but this time we’ll address the topic of imputation of income.
As discussed last week, child support in Michigan is determined by a formula often referred to as child support guidelines and the governing authority for child support is the 2017 Michigan Child Support Formula Manual. So, what happens when one parent doesn’t have income? How is this situation addressed by the guidelines? What the guidelines tell us is that if one parent has an unexercised ability to earn we can ask that the court impute income to that party for purposes of calculating child support. What that means is that once a court determines that a parent is either voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, after weighing certain factors in the guidelines, it can find that potential income shall be imputed to bring the parent to his or her earning potential for purposes of calculating child support.
Factors that the court may look at include:
1) Prior employment experience and history;
2) Education level and any special skills or training;
3) Physical and/or mental disabilities or limitations that may affect a parent’s ability to work or maintain employment;
4) Availability to work (someone incarcerated is not available to work and income will not be imputed to an incarcerated parent);
5) Employment opportunities in the geographical area where the parent resides;
6) Prevailing wage rates and hours of work available in the area;
7) How hard is the parent trying to find work;
8) Evidence that the parent is able to earn the imputed income;
9) Personal history, including martial status, criminal record, ability to drive/availability of transportation;
10) Parenting time – does the presence of the parties’ children in the home affect his or her ability to work or earn; and
11) Whether there has been a significant reduction in income since case was initiated compared to prior to before.
Often what we see in practice is that courts impute minimum wage (currently $9.45 per hour in Michigan) at 25-35 hours per week; however, not without consideration of the factors listed above.
Courts cannot impute income that exceeds what the parent was earning prior to the parent reducing or eliminating his or her income, nor can courts impute for more than 40 hours per week, or for potential overtime or shift premiums.
If you have questions regarding imputation of income for purposes of calculating child support, give us a call at 866-yourrights or visit us on the web at yourrights.com.