Understanding the financial aspects of divorce can be difficult. Here’s what to know about imputing income for child support in Michigan.
Child support may create a lot of tension between parents because a person may feel their co-parent controls the money or demands money for their benefit. A party may experience more frustration if their co-parent doesn’t spend child support money on the child. Children need emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial support. Parents must work together for parenting time, decision-making, and child support.
What Happens if a Parent Avoids Paying Child Support?
When the supporting parent voluntarily takes steps, such as quitting a job or taking a lower-paying job, for the express purpose of reducing their existing child support obligation, the court will step in to require certain parties to pay child support.
What is Imputed Income in Michigan?
A court assigns imputed income as the party’s predicted income to determine spousal support or child support payments.
A spouse who must pay child support may quit their job to avoid making payments or take a lesser paying job to avoid making the support payments the court would otherwise require. When one spouse earns significantly less than their earning potential, and the current earnings are a voluntary choice, the court may impute income when ordering alimony or child support. Indeed, voluntary underemployment or unemployment can lead the court to impute income.
What Factors Will a Michigan Court Consider When Deciding Imputed Income?
When a court decides imputed income, it considers many factors in determining if a parent can earn and a reasonable likelihood of earning a potential income.
The court considers the following factors, according to the Michigan Child Support Manual:
- The parents’ previous employment experience and employment history
- Reasons the parent changed employment or was terminated
- A parent has a disability that may affect their ability to work
- Each parent’s education level and job training
- Each parent’s availability for work
- Each parent’s available job opportunities in their geographic area
- Each parent’s personal history
- Each parent’s typical wage rates in their geographic area
- Evidence a parent could earn the imputed income
- Whether the parents’ earnings were reduced before the divorce
- Whether the parent seeks appropriate employment in good faith
- Whether the parents’ time with the child has impacted earnings
What is The Michigan Child Support Manual?
The Michigan Child Support Manual discusses imputed income as potential income. The manual clarifies that when a parent chooses to be unemployed or underemployed, even if they can make a certain income level, the court will consider their earning potential–– rather than their current salary–– when assigning child support. The potential income the court imputes should match the parent’s projected income had the parent not decided to make less money. When a court imputes income, it cannot impute an amount more significant than what the party would have earned without reducing income.
What Kind of Income Can a Michigan Court Not Impute?
The court cannot calculate the amount of potential income based on a workweek beyond 40 hours per week (i.e., the court cannot count potential overtime pay). The court cannot impute income if the party stops working a second job or takes overtime pay. A reduction in income resulting from a decision to stop working overtime shifts cannot result in a court imputing income.