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Imputing income to unemployed parents for child support

Unfortunately, there are many people in Tennessee who lose their jobs or get laid off. Not having income can create a very difficult situation for these individuals and their families. It is important that parents are able to provide for their children which, obviously, can be difficult when a job is lost. Usually, people who are in this situation do whatever they can to get a job as quickly as possible so they can once again start earning income again. However, securing gainful employment often takes much longer than expected.

This can create some tough situations for parents going through a child support dispute. Basic child support is based on a number of different factors, but the most important one is the parents' respective incomes. So, if one parent is unemployed and not earning an income, it can be difficult to determine how much child support should be ordered. When these cases are improperly handled, one parent may unfairly become responsible for more of financial costs associated with raising a child.

The law recognizes that this is not fair. If a parent's unemployment is deemed voluntary or willful, then that parent could have income imputed to them, which could result in him or her being ordered to pay a higher amount of child support than they would otherwise owe.

In determining whether unemployment is voluntary or willful, the court will analyze a number of different factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, the parents' past employment; their education and ability to work; the parents' lifestyle; the parent's role as a caretaker for a child that is disabled, thereby making it impossible for the parent to work; and whether the parent is currently in school.

Many people understand the need for child support and make sure that they pay it. However, there are many others who try to avoid paying and will do what they feel is necessary to avoid the issue. This includes voluntarily staying unemployed so they do not have an income when child support is calculated. The court can impute income to parents who do this, though, so, despite their best effort, they may still be ordered to pay child support. These are very fact specific determinations, meaning that an experienced attorney may be able to guide one through it.

Source: Tennessee Department of Human Services, "Child Support Guidelines" accessed on Jan. 29, 2018

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