What is Imputing Income in Child Support and When is Imputing Incomes Appropriate under Ohio Law?
Imputing income in child support cases refers to the process of attributing or assigning income to a parent for the purpose of calculating child support obligations. Ohio law recognizes that parents have a legal and financial responsibility to support their children, and imputing income is a mechanism to ensure that child support orders are fair and equitable.
In the case of Lee v. Lee, the Ohio Court of Appeals in the Fifth District, Delaware County, 2013-Ohio-2849, 2013 WL 3376611, addressed the issue of imputing income in child support cases. The court held that income can be imputed to a parent if there is evidence of voluntary unemployment or underemployment, or if the parent is intentionally avoiding their financial responsibilities.
Under, R.C. 3119.01(C)(17), income may be imputed to a parent if they are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or if they have the ability to earn income but are not doing so. It emphasizes the importance of considering the parent's earning capacity and potential income when determining child support obligations. Additionally, Badovick v. Badovick, 128 Ohio App. 3d 18, 713 N.E.2d 1066 (8th Dist. Cuyahoga County 1998), further supports the imputation of income in child support cases when a parent has the ability to earn income but chooses not to do so, or when they intentionally reduce their income to avoid their child support obligations.
What is the Two-Part Test for Imputation Analysis in Child Support Cases Under Ohio Law?
The two-part test for imputation analysis consists of the following elements:
#1 Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment: The first part of the test requires establishing that the parent in question is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. This means that the parent has the ability to work and earn income but is intentionally choosing not to do so or is not making reasonable efforts to secure suitable employment. It is important to provide evidence that demonstrates the parent's capacity to work and their lack of effort in seeking employment.
In the case of Lee v. Lee, the Ohio Court of Appeals in the Fifth District, Delaware County, 2013-Ohio-2849, 2013 WL 3376611, emphasized the importance of proving voluntary unemployment or underemployment. The court held that the imputation of income is appropriate when there is evidence that the parent is intentionally avoiding their financial responsibilities or is not making reasonable efforts to support their child.
#2 Ability to Earn Income: The second part of the test requires establishing that the parent has the ability to earn income. This means that the parent possesses the necessary skills, education, training, or experience to obtain employment and generate income. It is crucial to provide evidence that demonstrates the parent's capacity to earn income, such as educational qualifications, work history, or professional certifications.
Specifically, In the second part of the imputation analysis, the court must determine what the parent would have earned if fully employed using the following criteria:
(1) The parent's prior employment experience;
(2) The parent's education;
(3) The parent's physical and mental disabilities, if any;
(4) The availability of employment in the geographic area in which the parent resides;
(5) The prevailing wage and salary levels in the geographic area in which the parent resides;
(6) The parent's special skills and training;
(7) Whether there is evidence that the parent has the ability to earn the imputed income;
(8) The age and special needs of the child for whom child support is being calculated under this section;
(9) The parent's increased earning capacity because of experience;
(10) Any other relevant factor.
However, it is important to note that the trial court is not required to hear evidence on each statutory factor or discuss each statutory factor.
Does Ohio Law Permit Any Exceptions to the Imputation of Income in Child Support Cases?
Under Ohio law, the imputation of income is a mechanism used to attribute or assign income to a parent for the purpose of calculating child support obligations. However, R.C. 3119.05(I) provides certain exceptions to the imputation of income, which I will outline below:
1. Physical or Mental Incapacity: If a parent has a physical or mental incapacity that prevents them from working or earning income, the court may not impute income to that parent. It is important to provide medical documentation or other evidence to support the claim of incapacity.
2. Full-Time Student Status: If a parent is a full-time student, the court may not impute income to that parent. However, it is crucial to demonstrate that the parent's full-time student status is reasonable and directly related to their ability to obtain future employment or increase their earning capacity.
3. Parenting Time: If a parent has a significant amount of parenting time with the child, the court may consider this as a factor in determining whether to impute income. The court may take into account the time and effort the parent devotes to caring for the child, which may impact their ability to work or earn income.
4. Unavailability of Employment: If a parent is genuinely unable to find suitable employment despite reasonable efforts, the court may not impute income to that parent. It is important to provide evidence of job search efforts, such as job applications, interviews, and documentation of job market conditions.
5. Other Justifiable Circumstances: The court may consider other justifiable circumstances that would make the imputation of income inappropriate or unfair. These circumstances may include but are not limited to, temporary unemployment due to layoffs, job loss, or other unforeseen circumstances beyond the parent's control.
It is important to note that the exceptions to the imputation of income are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The court will consider the specific circumstances and evidence presented by both parties before making a determination. In your child support case, it is crucial to gather and present any evidence or documentation that supports the claim for an exception to the imputation of income. This may include medical records, academic transcripts, parenting time schedules, job search records, or any other relevant documentation.
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