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The way that child support is structured is designed to be as fair as possible. Sometimes, that means that a court has to get a little tough on a parent who seems to be deliberately "underachieving."

In other words, the judge in a child support case does have the ability to decide that a parent is purposefully unemployed or underemployed.

For example, suppose that your husband is an artist who has been relying on your income for the last year while he concentrates on his art shows. Your marriage crumbles under the strain due to his lack of success. When you divorce, he demands child support based on his current income -- while making no effort to find a job that he's capable of doing despite the fact that he has a college degree and several marketable skills.

Under those circumstances, it might be reasonable to ask the judge to impute income to your spouse based on what the court feels is his actual ability to earn an income. The court will generally consider three issues:

  1. Has your spouse shown a willingness to work by going for job interviews and sending out resumes? A demonstratable effort to find employment indicates that the lack of a job is involuntary, not deliberate.
  2. Does your spouse have the ability to work? Is there any physical or mental reason that your spouse is disabled? What degrees, training and experience does your spouse have?
  3. Is there sufficient opportunity for your spouse to find work? Is the area you live in economically depressed? Are there simply no jobs to be had?

Every parent has a moral and legal obligation to provide for their child to the best of their ability. If your child's other parent is purposefully trying to avoid his or her financial responsibility, it might be time to have a conversation with your attorney about imputed income.

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