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Can willful unemployment or underemployment impact child support?

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2023 | Child Support |

In Virginia family law, caring for children is a primary concern and the courts will strive to ensure the child’s best interests are met. To achieve that, the court will have specific guidelines for child support. This is important not just for the child, but for the paying parent and the receiving parent.

Since parental income is a key factor in the amount of the child support award, a common concern is if a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Basing how much is to be paid on their income alone could lead to the payments being unfair based on the situation. The court looks at this in depth based on the law to decide on a fair amount.

How is voluntary unemployment or underemployment assessed with support orders?

The court will look at the person’s income and the circumstances as to why it might not be as much as it could otherwise be. There could be a justifiable reason they are unemployed or underemployed.

For example, a custodial parent might not be able to work when the child is not in school; they cannot find suitable child care; or the computation of their income does not include paying for child care. These are not viewed as deliberate attempts to avoid getting sufficient employment if they can do so.

When their income is imputed, any change in employment will be assessed in the context of them acting in good faith and reasonableness. They might have made their employment decision because they want to receive training or attend school to increase their possible earning power.

Understand imputed income and how employment is weighed in family law

In family law cases, the court will need to know every fact to come to what it believes is a fair decision. This is particularly critical when there are financial awards whether it is from the point of view of the person asking for support or the one who is being asked to pay.

Toward that end, when there is a disparity, the court will want to know what a person can earn instead of what they do earn. With allegations and defenses of underemployment or unemployment, it is imperative to have help in these and other family law situations. Contacting professionals with extensive experience in contentious divorces can be helpful.


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