Voluntary Unemployment and Child Support
Voluntary unemployment or underemployment is an issue that may come up in the child support arena. After a custody determination has been made by an North Carolina court, there is an assumption that the custodial parent (the parent with more custody) is providing an adequate amount of support for their children. Oftentimes, this means that the non-custodial parent (the parent with less custody) ends up with an obligation of having to pay child support.
As we mentioned in one of our earlier blogs on the topic of child support, North Carolina courts will look to several factors in determining the amount of child support to be paid. The purpose of this entry is to discuss is to discuss what happens when a parent remains voluntarily employed, or depresses their income, in order to have a reduced child support obligation.
How Does North Carolina Generally Calculate Child Support?
In North Carolina, there is a presumption that the non-custodial parent will continue to do what is in the best interests of the child. If a court believes that a non-custodial parent is acting in good faith, the court will use the “Income Shares Model,” where both parents are presumed to have some proportional responsibility with regard to the cost of raising their child. We elaborated on these factors in our earlier entry on child support.
Voluntary Unemployment – What if A Parent is Voluntarily Unemployed, or is Depressing Their Income?
If a custodial parent is able to make a showing to the court that the noncustodial parent is willfully unemployed, or is under-employed in order to avoid paying child support, North Carolina courts will use a different standard in evaluating child support obligations.
In this scenario, judges will impute income to the noncustodial parent. This means that if it can be proven that a parent is willfully unemployed or depressing income, that a judge can create an amount which they think the noncustodial parent should have made and hold them liable to it for child support.
What Needs to be Proven in Order for a Judge to Impute Income to a Parent?
The court must make findings that a party is:
- Deliberately depressing his/her own income (voluntary unemployment); or
- Engaging in excessive spending with disregard for child support obligations
Are There Any Defenses to This Type of Claim?
If the noncustodial parent is involuntarily unemployed or underemployed, it is important that they document everything that caused their changed circumstances. It would also be a good idea to document their job search efforts, in order to show a judge that they are doing everything they can to maintain their earning power.
Consider setting up a consultation with a family law lawyer at Gilles Law, PLLC. You can reach us at 980-272-8438 at our office in Uptown Charlotte. We are here to assist with your inquiries.
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