In child support cases, the supporting parent’s income is often one the most essential pieces of evidence in determining how much support he or she should pay. Sometimes, though, that parent may engage in actions to try to dodge paying child support. One of these actions is voluntary impoverishment. As a recent Maryland Court of Special Appeals decision reminds us, when the recipient parent gives the court proof of voluntary impoverishment, and the supporting parent does nothing to rebut that proof, it is proper for the trial court to impute additional income to the supporting parent and calculate child support based upon that higher figure.
In this case, the divorced couple were the parents of two children. For most of the time, the children lived with the mother, and the father paid child support to the mother for both children. Once the children got older, circumstances changed. This change in circumstances led the father to go back to court to request a modification of the child support arrangement.
The father argued that, since the older child was no longer a minor, and the younger child lived with him, the court should terminate his child support obligation and should order the mother to pay child support for the younger child. Additionally, the father argued that the mother was voluntarily impoverished. She worked at a liquor store her fiancé owned. She managed the store’s books and directly decided to pay herself only a minimum-wage salary for her work. Prior to this, she had worked in a position earning $45,000 per year.
The trial judge agreed and found the mother to be voluntarily impoverished. The trial court imputed an income of $3,750 per month to the mother, even though she earned only minimum wage. Imputing income means that, for the purpose of calculating child support, the courts will follow the child support guideline amount for an amount of income higher than what you actually receive. In this case, that meant setting the mother’s child support obligation at more than $560 per month.
The mother appealed, but the lower court’s ruling remained in place. Previous rulings have established a list of 10 factors for trial courts to consider in deciding if a parent’s impoverishment is voluntary for the purpose of imputing income in a support case. While trial courts must consider each of these factors, the law does not require the trial judge’s order to discuss each item specifically.
One of the important factors in analyzing voluntary impoverishment is the timing of certain events. When this father first filed his child support case, the mother was making $45,000 per year, an income she lost shortly after the father initiated his action. If you can provide the court with evidence that your employer involuntarily terminated you and that you have engaged in a diligent search for similar employment, you may be able to avoid having the court impute income. In this case, the mother never gave the trial court any proof that she ever searched for a job with a salary similar to the one she lost. Instead, she took a job where she was, by her own choice, paid minimum wage.
Any child support case is important, since the outcome directly affects the welfare of your child. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a case in which your ex-spouse is hiding assets or engaging in actions to impoverish him or her voluntarily. Maryland child support attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has helped many parents use the legal system to achieve a fair and appropriate outcome in child support cases. To put this office’s experience to work for you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
‘Material Change of Circumstances’ and Modifying an Order of Child Support in Maryland, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 30, 2016
Maryland Family Code Sets Forth a Schedule to Determine Child Support Obligation, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 11, 2015