Imputing Income for Child Support

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has affirmed a trial court ruling that imputed income to the father to calculate child support, even though the court made no finding that the father was voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. The father in G.B. v. J.H., Case No. 2040065 (Ala. Civ. App. June 3, 2005) had filed a CS-41 (child support income affidavit) showing income of $252.16 per month.

Hearing evidence from the mother about the expenses the father had paid when the parties lived together, and after the father stated that he couldn’t remember the net income of the company he owned, the court imputed income to him of $500 per week and set child support accordingly. The father appealed.

The Court of Appeals first rejected the father’s argument that the trial court erred by imputing income without first finding that he was voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Although the Court of Appeals didn’t say so, this argument would be foolish on its face. A parent could be fully employed and making every penny possible and simply lie to the court about his or her income. Of course a finding of voluntary underemployment or unemployment is not a prerequesite for imputing income.

The Court of Appeals next dealt with the father’s assertion that the trial court had used the wrong standard in imputing income to him. The father’s statement of his income was apparently based solely on the W-2 he supplied for himself, showing the amount he had caused his company to pay him as compensation.

The Court of Appeals said the trial court was justified in disregarding this figure, because the true standard of the income of a business proprietor is “gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce such income.” When the father told the trial court that he “couldn’t remember” the gross income of his company (even though he personally prepared its income tax return), “the father conveniently placed the issues of the corporation’s gross receipts and its necessary (and appropriate) expenses beyond precise judicial determination.”

In our view, the circuit court could easily have discredited large portions of the father’s testimony; that court could, within its discretion, have determined that the father’s claimed ignorance of the financial affairs of his own corporation was a smokescreen designed to deprive the circuit court of probative evidence from which it could determine a just child-support award. Among the evidence that the circuit court did have was that the father had been able to afford considerable outlays for the mother and her two children before the parties’ separation, whether taken from the corporation’s assets or from his own draw, but had stopped making support payments to the mother because the mother and her alleged paramours had “cheated” him out of money. The circuit court could have concluded from the totality of the evidence that the father and/or his corporation was earning more than the father’s stated income, and that court could properly have attributed that income, pursuant to Rules 32(B)(3), 32(B)(4), and 32(B)(5), to the father. Thus, we cannot conclude that the circuit court’s judgment as to child support, which is based upon evidence received ore tenus, is due to be reversed on the basis that it is unsupported by the evidence so as to be plainly and palpably wrong (see Scholl v. Parsons, 655 So. 2d 1060, 1062 (Ala. Civ. App. 1995)).

3 comments

  1. Jo says:

    Sounds like they need to do something to figure this out better. As the spouse of a NON CP, I have seen all the horrors that can be had thru the courts here in Alabama. His ex was making 20,000.00 a year PRIOR to the divorce but hasn’t made over minimun wage since. And only one year in 6 has she even tried to work! So, they impute minimum wage everytime she has taken him back to court, with a free attorney I might add (she accuses him of ABUSE and it is never true but they have never had DHR involvement and let her do this twice already), and they never ask her why she is not working and trying to help support the children SHE brought into the world too. Why is that? I am a former single parent who never brought my childrens father back to court for a “raise”. I simply did my part, like ALL parents should, not just the NON CP. That seems to be the way here in Alabama, make the NON CP the “bad guy/gal” and make them pay. And especially if it is a man. Most of the women seem to think they can sit around and let their ex provide for them and the new husband. Why aren’t the courts enforcing a 50/50 rule, thats what is was when the family was together and should be after separation. Both parties should do what it takes to provide for the children. Thats what it is all about, isn’t it? Or is it?

  2. The Two P's says:

    My husband and I raised his adopted daughter and his biological daughter for 10 years without any financial assistance from their biological mother (I met him when they were 4 and 6 and the mother wanted NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM). As soon as the youngest turned 15, she wanted to live with her mother. Now, the mother, who does not work and lives with her boyfriend and his parents (FOR FREE), gets to have $550 a month for child support for that child and it doesn’t even matter that the oldest is living with us and is a full time college student. Also, the youngest will be 18 in Feb., but the court ordered that we pay until Feb. 2007! The mother gets to sit on her extremely large butt and live off us. ARGH!!!!!!! By the way, the kicker is, she owes us $6,000 in out of pocket medical expenses for those kids and the courts DIDN’T EVEN CARE!

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