by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington family law, when may a court impute income to a parent? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).
VOLUNTARILY UNEMPLOYED / UNDEREMPLOYED
Washington State child support laws establish both how to determine whether to impute income for a parent and its proper calculation. Generally, the court shall impute income to a parent when the parent is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed. RCW 26.19.071(6). Accordingly, the court determines whether the parent is voluntarily underemployed or voluntarily unemployed based upon that parent’s work history, education, health, and age, or any other relevant factors. Id. In the absence of records of a parent’s actual earnings, the court shall impute a parent’s income in the following order of priority:
(a) Full-time earnings at the current rate of pay;
(b) Full-time earnings at the historical rate of pay based on reliable information, such as employment security department data;
(c) Full-time earnings at a past rate of pay where information is incomplete or sporadic;
(d) Full-time earnings at a minimum wage in the jurisdiction where the parent resides if the parent has a recent history of minimum wage earnings, is recently coming off public assistance, aged, blind, or disabled assistance benefits, pregnant women assistance benefits, essential needs and housing support, supplemental security income, or disability, has recently been released from incarceration, or is a high school student;
(e) Median net monthly income of year-round full-time workers as derived from the United States bureau of census, current population reports, or such replacement as published by the bureau of census.
However, there are exceptions. Generally, a court will not impute income to a parent who is gainfully employed on a full-time basis, unless the court finds that the parent is voluntarily underemployed and finds that the parent is purposely underemployed to reduce the parent’s child support obligation. Id. In addition, income is generally not imputed for an unemployable parent. Id. Lastly, income is usually not imputed to a parent to the extent the parent is unemployed or significantly underemployed due to the parent’s efforts to comply with court-ordered reunification efforts under Chapter 13.34 RCW or under a voluntary placement agreement with an agency supervising the child. Id.
If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Family Law Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.