How Does Willful Underemployment Impact Child Support in Massachusetts?

| Apr 22, 2016 | Child Support |

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In determining a Massachusetts child support obligation, the first factor to be considered is the gross incomes of both parents. In determining a parties gross income, the court will consider whether willful underemployment or unemployment is being attempted by either parent. In other words, either parent is capable of earning more money than they currently do. 

The court has the power to calculate child support using earning potential instead of the actual amount of income a person earns. Attribution of income requires that the court make specific findings that despite being capable to work, a person is unemployed or underemployed. It does not require that the person act in bad faith; it simply requires that a person voluntarily earn less then he or she could earn through reasonable effort. It may be applied to either the person who pays support or the person who receives support.

No specific mathematical formula is used to determine how much income should be attributed. It depends upon the unique circumstances of the case. The judge may set either a finite amount or define an income range. To arrive at a figure for attributed income, the court considers a party’s education, training, health, and employment history.

In order to have income attributed in a Massachusetts child support case, a judge must make specific findings that a party can earn additional income with reasonable effort. You cannot merely suggest that the other person should make more money to have income attributed. There must be a reason to believe that a party could work more hours, either at the same job, or that there is another job readily available that would provide more hours or higher pay.

You are not required to point to a specific position or an actual job opening, but you must provide evidence that tends to prove that the person has higher earning potential.

You will have to show that there is work available within the local geographic area.

In situations when there is a career change, you will have to show that the other party has the ability to work in the area in which he or she is trained and that such a position would yield higher income. In certain situations, this could require hiring a vocational expert to assess a person’s skills and training, and explain what salary is commonly paid to a person with a similar background.

If you are frustrated by the unemployment or underemployment of the other party in your Massachusetts child support case, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844=4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation to assess your situation and help you determine whether attribution of income is appropriate in your case. 

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