According to research from the United States Census Bureau, there are more than 13 million single parents in the United States. Single parents face some unique challenges. To help them provide the best care for their child, custodial parents are often entitled to child support payments from their former partner. Under Virginia law (Virginia Code § 20-108.2), there is a general presumption that the state’s general child support guidelines are appropriate for calculating how much child support should be paid. These guidelines employ a formula based on the parties’ gross income, health insurance and child care costs to establish each party’s obligation.
However, the Virginia child support guidelines do not work for every case. In certain circumstances, a deeper look into a parent’s financial means may be required. Additional income — sometimes referred to as “imputed income” — may be assigned to a parent for the purposes of calculating child support.
What is Imputed Income?
In most cases, child support is based, in large part, on each parent’s income, but, there are situations in which this type of straightforward calculation would produce an unjust result. Virginia courts may in some circumstances base child support, not on actual income, but on a parent’s “ability to earn” or “ability to pay.” For example, a parent in Virginia cannot avoid paying child support simply by quitting their job. If they do so, a family law court can “impute” income to them by assigning additional income beyond their actual earnings.
Imputed Income is Always Determined on a Case-By-Case Basis
By its very nature, imputed income cannot be determined using a standardized formula. This is an issue that always requires a case-by-case assessment. When reviewing these complex child support cases, Virginia courts will consider a number of different factors, including:
- The past earning history of the parent;
- Whether a parent is voluntarily earning less than their reasonable potential and the reasons why;
- Other sources of assets or wealth that they can access; and
- Any other factor deemed necessary to reach an equitable result.
For parents who believe that they are receiving less than they should in child support, the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) has some tools available. Though, if you believe that your former partner is intentionally decreasing their income or hiding assets to avoid paying child support, it is imperative that you seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney. It may be appropriate for a court to assign “imputed income” to your child’s other parent.
Get Help From Our Virginia Child Support Lawyers Today
At Duff & Kronfeld, P.C., our top-rated Virginia child support attorneys are committed to providing sophisticated and effective legal representation to parents. If you have any questions about child support and imputed income, we are available to help. For a fully private family law consultation, please contact our law firm today. From our office in Fairfax, we serve parents throughout Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Prince William County.