Imputed Income in Child Support Cases

All parents have a duty to support their children, both financially and emotionally. When parents of children are no longer married to one another, the laws of South Carolina help determine how much child support should be paid by one party to the other.

South Carolina law takes several factors into account when determining child support, such as:

  • the gross income of each parent
  • health insurance and medical expenses needed for the child
  • child support being paid by the noncustodial parent for other children
  • children from other relationships that live with each parent
  • the amount of time the children spend with each parent
  • child-care expenses for the children, and
  • state and federal taxes, and other deductions.

 

What happens when one of the parents voluntarily quits a job or takes a lesser paying job in an effort to avoid or reduce their child support obligation? Or when one of the parents has never worked during the marriage, is it fair for the Court to assign all of the financial obligations to the working parent? This is where imputed income becomes of critical importance.

Generally, imputed income is income that the Court assigns or credits a party for the purpose of child support or spousal support. The Court’s focus on how to impute income is two-fold: what is a party’s earning potential and has the party voluntarily and deliberately taken actions to reduce his or her earnings.

A skilled family law attorney is critical in both proving and disproving arguments regarding imputed income in support cases. Having an attorney who can implore the necessary tools in assessing a party’s earning potential and surrounding themselves with appropriate experts is essential. Vocational evaluators and related financial experts may be required to present to the Court what a party’s earning potential is based upon their education, employment and medical history. This can be especially important if one of the parties is self-employed, as it may not be readily apparent what that party’s true earning potential is simply based upon their reported income. Thorough investigation and the assistance of experts can provide to the Court a clearer picture regarding the profitability of a business, realistic cash flow and overall income available to the self-employed party than what may be initially provided.

South Carolina law does not allow a parent to escape child support obligations by purposely staying unemployed or refusing to earn up to his or her income earning potential. Instead, the court will order a voluntarily unemployed or underemployed parent to pay child support based on his or her potential income.

If you have any questions about how imputed income might impact your case regarding child or spousal support, please contact our office today at (864) 804-6330 to request a free consultation with a member of our team.