Sometimes, when a parent experiences a change in income through either unemployment or decreased employment, a modification of child support is appropriate. However, it is important to know that the law in Minnesota is that a child support award can be determined based on your potential income (as opposed to actual income) if the court thinks that you are “voluntarily underemployed.” So, if you plan to cut back your hours so that you have less income to show at a child support hearing, be careful, as chances are the court will find that you have chosen to limit your income, and, may then decide to ‘impute’ (add) income to you based on your earnings history.
A court in Minnesota cannot force you to work more, but a court can make your decision not to work a costly one. If the Court finds that you are voluntarily unemployed, income will be added (which you aren’t actually earning) to your column and then figure child support out. In this way, the court can set a child support amount that may not be reasonable for you. Your options then become either to fall behind on child support and risk the consequences, or to work more so that you can afford to pay the child support amount.
There are limits as to what the court may do to your income in this type of situation. The Court cannot pretend that you can work more than forty hours per week, punish you for attending school or changing careers in pursuit of a better job, ignore disability or incarceration that limits your earnings, overlook factors beyond your control such as a severely distressed economy, punish you for staying home to care for a minor child, and pretend you have income when you are receiving public cash grants.
If you are concerned about the court potentially adding income to your paycheck that isn’t there, or, if you are dealing with a parent who might be working less than he or she can, please contact us today and we can work with you to find the best way to move forward. Our attorneys have significant experience in dealing with child support issues and will strive to help you receive the treatment you deserve.