In Virginia child support cases, imputation of income can have a substantial influence the amount of a support obligation. Understanding how and when a court will impute income is a complex endeavor. This post is designed to give you a few basic pointers so that you can better understand the concept of imputing income. If you have questions about your specific case, it is important to speak with an experienced family law and divorce attorney.
Read the Virginia Code
In determining the amount of child support, a Virginia court is guided by child support guidelines. These guidelines are “presumptive” in that a judge shall presume, subject to rebuttal, that the guideline figure is the appropriate figure for support. However, Virginia Code Section 20-108.1 sets forth factors that a judge may consider in determining whether to deviate from the guidelines. Factor number three states as follows:
- “Imputed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily under-employed; provided that income may not be imputed to a custodial parent when a child is not in school, child care services are not available and the cost of such child care services are not included in the computation and provided further, that any consideration of imputed income based on a change in a party’s employment shall be evaluated with consideration of the good faith and reasonableness of employment decisions made by the party, including to attend and complete an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party’s earning potential”
This language authorizes a Virginia court, in certain circumstances, to consider imputing income to a party based on that parties’ employment decisions. Accordingly, this language plays a critical role in each imputation issue.
Determine Whether Imputation is a Potential Issue
If a Virginia Circuit or Juvenile Court imputes income to a party, the court has essentially declared that the parent should be earning more than the parent is actually earning. These are some common examples of situations where this issue arises:
- A parent has quit, or been fired from their job
- A parent is working less than full-time hours
- A parent has taken a pay decrease, or accepted a different job for less pay
- A parent is not working, but is capable of working
Gather the Evidence
Proving that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed can be a difficult task. In many cases, it is advisable to gather evidence to demonstrate the person’s earning capacity. Some examples of relevant evidence may include past earnings (i.e. pay stubs, tax returns), documentation regarding termination of former employment (i.e. termination letter, employer disciplinary records), documentation regarding educational background, and medical records showing a capacity to maintain employment.
Consult with a Vocational Expert
A vocational expert may be a critical witness in your support case when imputation of income is an issue. A vocational expert can provide an opinion regarding the earning capacity of a parent, and can show evidence of employment opportunities. An opinion from such an expert can often become a vital piece of evidence that can sway a judge’s decision regarding whether or not to impute income.
If you have additional questions about imputation of income, child support laws, or any other family law or divorce issue, contact an experienced Virginia attorney at BoykoNapier. The trial lawyers at BoykoNapier represent clients in all manner of family law and divorce cases throughout Central Virginia, including Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover and the surrounding localities. Contact BoykoNapier at (804) 658-3418, or you may reach us via email.