California Court Explains Imputed Income in Child Support Cases

Generally, the California Courts calculate child support obligations, in part, on each parent’s actual income. In some cases, however, they may determine what constitutes appropriate child support based on a parent’s imputed income. This was illustrated in a recent California case in which the Court declined to substantially reduce a father’s child support obligation after he voluntarily left his job. If you are interested in learning more about child support, it is advisable to speak to a  San Diego child support lawyer as soon as possible.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that the mother and the father ended their marriage in December 2019. They filed a settlement agreement at that time, during which the father agreed to pay the mother $2,500 each month for child support. A report attached to the agreement indicated that the father’s monthly wages were approximately $10,000, while the mother’s earnings were around $12,000. The father voluntarily left his position in construction sales less than one month later.

Allegedly, the father made partial child support payments for two months and then ceased payments entirely. He filed a request for order (RFO) in June, asking the Court to modify his child support obligations on the grounds that he had no income. The mother opposed the RFO and asked the Court to continue the current obligation or increase it. The Court denied the RFO and imputed income to the father in the amount he was earning prior to quitting his job, set child support at $2,351 per month, and to pay half of the mother’s daycare expenses. The father appealed.

Imputed Income in Child Support Cases

California law dictates that, when setting child support, Courts must consider each parent’s actual income. The Courts have the discretion to consider a parent’s earning capacity instead of their actual income, however, in harmony with the child’s best interests when taking into consideration the child’s overall needs and the time the parent spends with the child.

In the subject case, the father argued that the Court improperly imputed his prior earnings without considering whether it was in his children’s best interests. The Court disagreed, finding that the reasons the father stated for quitting his job on appeal were not the same as those asserted at the trial level and, therefore, were moot. Further, the Court noted that the father opened the door to a support recalculation when he filed the RFO. Thus, it affirmed the Trial Court ruling.

Speak to a Knowledgeable San Diego Family Law Attorney

Under California law, parents have an obligation to provide financial support for their children, and they cannot avoid the obligation by purposefully reducing their earnings. If you wish to seek child support or were served with papers instituting a support action, it is advisable to speak to an attorney about your options. The knowledgeable San Diego lawyers of Doppelt and Forney APLC can advise you of your rights and help you seek a good outcome in consideration of the facts of your case. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential conference.

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