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Imputed Income for Child Support in Utah

The law is clear that parents have an ongoing obligation to financially support their minor children. Although most parents have no problem with this duty of support, some parents resist what they consider to be excessive child support orders and may intentionally reduce income to lower their support payments.

Imputed Income for Child Support in Utah

The law has specific rules for situations where paying parents reduce their earnings without good cause. In Utah, the courts may add back into the child support calculation the income that the paying parent claims to have lost. This concept is known as “imputing income.”

This article addresses how Utah courts impute income when the paying parent is falsely lowering her or his earnings. If you have questions after reading this article, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.

Establishing a Child Support Order

Utah law states specifically that children are entitled to share in the current incomes of both parents. State law uses a formula to determine how much child support should be paid by one parent to the other parent. For more detailed information about the child support law in Utah.

The Meaning of Imputed Income

If a judge rules that the parent who is responsible for paying child support (the paying parent) has intentionally lowered his or her earnings, the court can attribute additional income toward the paying parent in order to establish a fair child support order – one that will provide sufficient financial support to the child. This is called “imputing income.”

Courts won’t impute income when there is good cause for a reduction in support. However, when judges find that a parent has voluntarily reduced income, then the paying parent will likely be ordered to pay support based on his or her earning capacity.

Voluntary Unemployment

Some parents may think their child support payment is too high or feel that they should not have to pay any child support at all. They may try to find ways to avoid their obligation to their children. Some paying parents may decide to quit a job, refuse to find replacement work, and then ask the court to reduce their child support payment. In Utah, if a court determines that the paying parent lost a job deliberately, he or she will be considered voluntarily unemployed, and the judge will not reduce the child support order.

Voluntary Underemployment

The term “underemployment” means that the paying parent has intentionally taken a lower paying job or hides income to lessen the child support order. In other words, the paying parent is working below his or her full earning potential.

A paying parent may be underemployed when he or she is no longer working in an occupation for which she or he has been trained and is working at a lower paying job. For example, a registered nurse may decide to leave a lucrative hospital job and take a minimum wage job in a daycare. The court could rule that the nurse is underemployed and should be earning more money.

The paying parent doesn’t necessarily have to be deliberate in trying to lose or lower income. Utah law holds that if the paying parent’s loss of earnings is due to neglect, income can be imputed.

A court could also find a paying parent to be underemployed if the paying parent defers taking sales commissions or bonuses. For example, right before a scheduled child support hearing, the paying parent defers taking a year-end bonus by asking his or her employer to pay the bonus at a later time. The intention is to keep the bonus hidden, so it’s not used to calculate child support. If it’s proven that this was the paying parent’s ploy, the judge may impute or add the bonus back into the calculation.

How Courts Calculate Imputed Income

In child support cases, Utah law requires that both parents provide their most recent income tax returns and written proof of their current and past earnings. The judge has this information available for reference to see what the paying parent was earning in the past and base child support on that amount, rather than the artificially reduced amount of income.

When the paying parent has no significant work history or fails to provide his or her income history, the judge may refer to the most recently published Utah Occupational Employment Wage Survey. The judge will draw on this information to establish what the paying parent’s imputed income should be.

Utah law has special statutes that focus on business owners who may try to use the business to hide income. If the business owner is lending the business money to minimize his or her earnings, the loan interest should be at the going market rate. Otherwise, the loan amount could be counted as income for child support calculation purposes.

When Imputing Income is not Allowed

There are some cases where courts are prohibited from imputing income. If the paying parent becomes physically or mentally disabled or has had employment losses due to Hurricanes Katrina or Rita, the court cannot find that the paying parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.

In addition if one parent is caring for the parties’ child who is under five years of age, the court will not attribute income to that parent.

Free Consultation with a Child Support Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about child support or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.