Every parent has a legal and moral obligation to financially support his or her child. When parties divorce, the court will usually require the noncustodial parent to pay a percentage of his or her net income as child support. What happens, though, when the noncustodial parent’s net income is difficult to calculate or fluctuates from year to year? Or, what happens when the noncustodial parent is unemployed or underemployed?
In some instances, Illinois courts will impute income to the noncustodial spouse. Essentially, the court will, for purposes of calculating the amount of child support owed, assume that the noncustodial parent is making a certain amount of money even if he or she is unemployed or earning less than the stated amount. Illinois courts may impute income where the noncustodial parent (1) is voluntarily unemployed, (2) is attempting to evade a support obligation, or (3) has unreasonably failed to take advantage of an employment opportunity. A common theme running through these circumstances is that the court may impute income where the noncustodial spouse has acted in bad faith.
An example of a parent being voluntarily unemployed occurred in In re Marriage of Adams, 348 Ill. App. 3d 340 (3rd Dist. 2004). In that case, the trial court ordered the father to pay child support. He had previously been employed as a television news helicopter pilot earning $55,000 per year. However, he voluntarily quit his job and moved to Germany where he thought he would have better career opportunities and where his girlfriend lived. The Court found that it was proper to impute income to him based on his prior employment.