Imputing Income for Child Support

Because the Alabama child support guidelines in Rule 32 are straightforward and reasonably logical, litigation around the issue of child support in Alabama is relatively rare. However, one of the areas in which parents can disagree – and bring their disagreement to the judge to resolve – is the issue of imputed income.

Both parents submit their income on CS-41 forms, and the court determines the child support from the information on those forms using Form CS-42. But if one of the parents argues that the other is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed, and if the court determines that they are correct, the court must (yes, I said must) impute income to that parent.

We see this issue played out in Randall v Sizemore, DR 2150905 (Ala. Civ. App. January 13, 2017). This is the second trip to the appeals court for these parties, so this surely must be getting tiresome for both of them. Dad had worked as the manager of a concrete company and had enjoyed an income of $73,000. Then the company folded, and he worked as a truck driver for other concrete companies, with income around $50,000. By the time this case rolled around, he was working as a retail salesperson for a liquor store in Mississippi and earning an income of only $22,000.

The first time the case was reversed and remanded, the appeals court had agreed with Dad that his income seemed to have dropped enough for there to be a material change in circumstances, which triggered his right to a recalculation of child support. On remand, the trial court had found that Dad was voluntarily underemployed and had “impute[d] income to the Father at the amount of his former employment.” The trial court apparently did not change child support at all or attach a Form CS-42.

After exploring the competing arguments surrounding the issue of voluntary underemployment, the appeals court reversed again with instructions to the trial court to “determine the specific amount of income to be imputed to the father, to determine the mother’s current income, and to calculate the father’s child-support obligation using Form CS-42.”

Maybe this will do it. Let’s hope so.

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