When Determining Support, What Happens If A Spouse Refuses to Return To Work?

Interviewer: Can you expand on imputation of income?

Tanya: There is a concept in court called imputation of income, or imputing income. Say a woman has been out of the job market for 10 years, and she cannot work full time because she has kids that are ages nine and eight. She says, “I do not want to go to work.” The court will say fine but, “We are going to say you can work and you can make $25,000 a year.” The court can do that.

Interviewer: Oh, that is great.

Tanya: The court can say, “Whether or not you want to work, we are going to say you can work. We are going to put $25,000 as the number on your head, whether or not you are working.”

Interviewer: So that would reduce the amount of alimony that person would get, for instance.

Tanya: That is correct. Also, they can do the same thing for the paying person. Sometimes guys or women will go and lose jobs purposefully; or they will reduce their salary purposefully, not purposefully or whatever.

They can be in a situation where they are not earning or they are earning less, where the court can also increase it. The court can say, “We do not really believe you, or we think you can make more money. So we are going to put a different number on, than you are actually earning right now.”

Interviewer: That is interesting. Let’s say the woman has two kids and if she got a job, she would have to get child care. That would offset the earnings from the job or make it worth pretty much nothing. Is that a factor?

Tanya: 100%, and that’s an excellent question. Always, an analysis has to be done. If a person is only making $20,000 or $25,000 a year and it will cost $20,000 or $25,000 a year to put the kids in daycare, then it does not make sense.

Again, the woman is the caretaker, and the guy is out working. She makes the $25,000 and he has to pay the lion’s share of the child care. For the couple of bucks, rather than staying with mom, it may not make sense. But you have to actually sit and do the figures. You have to do the actual child support analysis to figure out what makes the most sense.

Truthfully, if she is receiving alimony anyway plus she should be working, then it may make sense. It is not a pat answer. It is something the lawyer really needs to calculate and figure out if it makes more sense whether mom should stay home or go out to work.

Interviewer: It sounds like a whole strategy that needs to be put into place; rather than just say this number or that number and argue about it.

Tanya: Yes, 100%. You cannot just make a broad stroke statement, “I am going to make $25,000 and it is going to cost me $20,000 for child care. Why should I work?” You have to look at all the different factors and actually do the calculations to see whether it makes sense or not financially. You need to get down to the nitty gritty to figure out if it is viable.

New Jersey Family Lawyer Blog - Spousal support