Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

What is imputed income for child support?

The Utah child support guidelines use a complex mathematical calculation to determine how much of a parent's income should be set aside for the financial support of their children. Depending on the amount of money that a parent makes, that figure could be more or less than what their children's other parent is required to pay. When a parent earns no income, the court may impute income on them to establish an appropriate child support amount.

Imputed income is not income that a parent actually earns, but income that the parent likely could earn in the workforce. Consider, for example, a parent who is trained and qualified as a registered nurse, but who is not in a job.

Based on that person's qualifications, experience and the prevailing salaries in the community in which they live, that parent may earn around $80,000 per year. The court may impute that sum upon the parent for the purposes of computing child support.

There are issues that may stop a court from imputing income. First, if a parent is not employed because their child or children require constant care due to medical or emotional conditions, then it may not be fair for the court to expect the parent to earn income as well. Additionally, if a parent is not working because the cost of putting their children in child care would exceed their possible income, then the imputation of income may not be done.

It is important that parents understand how courts assess child support before they arrive for their child support hearings. Consultation with family law attorneys can prepare them for issues, such as imputed income and others that they may not be familiar with before beginning the child support process.

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