301 865-1101

The Court May Attribute Income to a Parent who has Voluntarily Impoverished Him/Herself

Voluntary Impoverishment:  When parents unfairly reduce or claim reduced income, the court can set child support based upon a higher amount of income in the best interest of the children.

Custody and divorce lawyers in Frederick Maryland are sometimes hired when a parent is frustrated that the other parent is unfairly reducing or hiding income in an attempt to avoid paying child support.  Lawyers in such a case will ask for a trial and ask the judge to “attribute” income to a parent who has “voluntarily impoverished” him or herself.

Income attribution is when a court makes a decision that, in spite of a parent’s claim of no income or low income, the court instead directs that the Maryland Child Support Guidelines include an amount of substituted income which is determined by the judge.  That determination is usually made after a hearing and in light of the subject parent’s work history, credibility, efforts to obtain re-employment/employment or other equitable factors.

Remember that with regard to child support, the court deems parents as “Payee” and “Payor.”  With that in mind, it is important to note that I said it could be income attribution to a “Parent,” not just attribution to a “Payor.”   A judge may attribute income to a Payor parent for unfairly endeavoring to decrease his/her support obligation but Payee parents may have also have income attributed because they are unfairly endeavoring to increase the payors support obligation.

Many times the judge attributes income to both.

Work History” means that the judge will examine the complaining party’s historic income or area of employment.  If a parent earned 100K per year as an IT professional and then dropped that career to pursue his/her dream of becoming a marine biologist; it’s going to perk the ears of the Judge.  It is not to say a person can’t do that, it’s just a question of whether the judge believes them or maybe the judge thinks he/she should put off that dream for awhile.

The judge may also believe that the subject parent should go through with the training or education because when the degree or training is completed that parent has more income than before or there is some other tangible benefit  for the children.  I have seen judges decline to attribute income because a person will work in a more financially profitable field.  I have also seen the judge decline to attribute income because the new occupation will benefit the children like a teachers’ having a schedule conducive to spend more time with the child(ren) in the summer.

Credibility” is simply a question of whether the judge thinks one, both or neither party is telling the truth.  A judge may not believe that your father, the boss of the company, hit you with a paycut the same day you were served with child support papers.  If that really happened, a judge is going to want to see alot of proof to substantiate that position.   Judges are not mind readers they do not determine truth….just credibility.

Efforts to obtain employment and or re-employment” is fairly straightforward and works hand in glove with credibility discussed above.  Keep track of efforts for employment such as names of who you spoke to, copies of the want ads and cover letters, etc.  “Other equitable facts”  means mitigating circumstances of fairness.

I used to work for a judge who would say  “equity is like art; I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.

Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place.

Child Support Litigation in Frederick Maryland

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