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Calculating child support if a parent is willfully unemployed

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2024 | Firm News

A fundamental part of determining child support under Indiana law is calculating the parents’ income. The child has basic needs that must be met and both parents are expected to contribute.

When looking at the guidelines, analyzing what the parents earn and how to serve the child’s best interests, there are times when the parents might not be earning as much as they could. This can affect the child support order. Intentional underemployment or unemployment is factored in.

Potential income is gauged for child support

The court looks at a person’s education, their skills, work history, training and the current landscape for available jobs to determine if they are achieving something close to their earning potential.

Some parents might be working at jobs where they are not earning a substantial income and are doing so intentionally. The same is true if they are unemployed.

Based on state law, the court calculates the child support order based on what the parent could earn if they were maximizing their potential.

For example, if the parent has an advanced degree and there are available jobs in the market which they could reasonably be hired for – but they have not tried to get those jobs – the order can reflect that possible earning power. The same is true if they have specific skills and training from a trade.

Other considerations beyond education, past earnings, credentials and training include their age, their health, if they have a criminal past or must navigate other barriers that would stop them from getting hired. Those who do not have education or training still have their earning potential calculated based on what they could earn, but it will hinge on the federal minimum wage at the time.

Providing for a child is of primary importance

Of all the areas of potential dispute in a family law case, issues related to children will be closely scrutinized. When parents are asked to provide for their child, it is not punitive. It is to benefit the child.

Still, if a parent is not making as much money as they could be and there is no justifiable reason for it, the court will use potential earnings instead of actual earnings to make its decision. Whether it is a paying parent or a receiving parent, it is imperative to understand this and to take steps to be prepared.

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