Dogging It: Voluntarily Tanking Your Income Won’t Get You Out of Your Child Support Obligations

pocketsDivorce can bring out the worst in people. Underhanded actions and tricks designed to hurt the other spouse and gain an advantage in the proceedings are all too common. In many cases, a spouse will engage in devious tactics to try to reduce the amounts he or she must pay for child support.

Since support obligations are in part determined based on the assets and income of the parent from whom payments are sought, a less-than-honest spouse may try to make it appear that they have significantly less money than they actually do. This can involve concealing or transferring assets. Sometimes, however, a spouse will also intentionally reduce their income through “voluntary underemployment” or taking a job that pays less than they previously were earning, solely to stick it to the other parent or deny them the child support they deserve.

Luckily, Illinois law provides a way for parents who are intentionally tanking their income to be held to account.

“Potential Income” Used to Determine Child Support Obligations

In Illinois, the basic formula for arriving at a child support amount (subject to variations based on specific circumstances) involves:

  • calculating each parent’s net income, then
  • combining net incomes to determine Total Family Income, then
  • using the Illinois Child Support Estimator to determine the Basic Child Support Obligation, then
  • allocating the Basic Child Support Obligation proportionally based on net incomes.

Initial support obligations are calculated as part of the divorce proceedings but can later be modified at the request of one of the parents if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in the amount of one of the parent’s incomes. But if it can be shown that a reduction in a parent’s net income – such as quitting a job or taking a much lower paying job – was voluntary and done in bad faith, an Illinois court can base its support calculations on the parent’s “potential income” rather than their actual, reduced income.

Specifically, Section 505(a)(3)(F)(II)(3.2) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that If a parent is “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income.” A court will calculate that income by determining the parent’s employment potential and probable earnings level based on:

  • the parent’s work history
  • the parent’s occupational qualifications,
  • prevailing job opportunities
  • the ownership by a parent of a substantial non-income producing asset, and
  • earnings levels in the community.

If there is insufficient work history to determine employment potential and probable earnings level, there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s potential income is 75% of the most recent United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of one person.

Every one of us has our own unique career journey which can include ups and downs, setbacks and advancements. Whether a parent’s career choices will be held against them in terms of their child support obligations will depend on their unique facts and circumstances and whether or not those choices were made in good faith or were made solely to skirt their obligations under the law.

Louis R. Fine – Chicago Child Support Attorney

If you have questions about child support, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. I look forward to assisting you

“Potential Income” Used to Determine Child Support Obligations

In Illinois, the basic formula for arriving at a child support amount (subject to variations based on specific circumstances) involves:

  • calculating each parent’s net income, then
  • combining net incomes to determine Total Family Income, then
  • using the Illinois Child Support Estimator to determine the Basic Child Support Obligation, then
  • allocating the Basic Child Support Obligation proportionally based on net incomes.

Initial support obligations are calculated as part of the divorce proceedings but can later be modified at the request of one of the parents if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in the amount of one of the parent’s incomes. But if it can be shown that a reduction in a parent’s net income – such as quitting a job or taking a much lower paying job – was voluntary and done in bad faith, an Illinois court can base its support calculations on the parent’s “potential income” rather than their actual, reduced income.

Specifically, Section 505(a)(3)(F)(II)(3.2) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that If a parent is “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income.” A court will calculate that income by determining the parent’s employment potential and probable earnings level based on:

  • the parent’s work history
  • the parent’s occupational qualifications,
  • prevailing job opportunities
  • the ownership by a parent of a substantial non-income producing asset, and
  • earnings levels in the community.

If there is insufficient work history to determine employment potential and probable earnings level, there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s potential income is 75% of the most recent United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of one person.

Every one of us has our own unique career journey which can include ups and downs, setbacks and advancements. Whether a parent’s career choices will be held against them in terms of their child support obligations will depend on their unique facts and circumstances and whether or not those choices were made in good faith or were made solely to skirt their obligations under the law.

Louis R. Fine – Chicago Child Support Attorney

If you have questions about child support, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. I look forward to assisting you

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