When calculating income for child support or temporary maintenance (alimony), according to the New York Domestic Relations Law and the Family Court Act, the Court may, if the court believes it is appropriate, add in or “impute” income to people. The statutes outline some enumerated items to be considered for imputing income and mentions that other resources can be additionally considered. Assets that are not producing income is one of these enumerated resources. Fringe benefits and “perks” that someone receives as part of their job like for food, housing, cars, memberships, and other benefits, if they are for personal use or if they result in a financial benefit to the party, are mentioned in the statutes as things that can be imputed as income by a court. Funds, services, or benefits received by friends or family can be added in as income for child support or a maintenance calculation under the law.
If a court concludes that someone has diminished their income or assets to try to get around a child support or a “pendente lite” (Latin for while the case is pending) maintenance obligation, a court can impute income for the party’s previous income or resources. This might be, for example, if the court believes someone voluntarily left their jobs, were fired for cause, or chooses not to work full time or at all. Besides past earnings, a court can consider their education and ability to earn. Whether or not the party is diligently applying for employment commensurate with their background, experience, and abilities may be a factor in determining income. A support magistrate or judge can look at what people with comparable educations and backgrounds earn to impute income.
There is of course another side to these cases. The person or lawyer arguing against income being imputed to their client can show that the loss of employment or income was due to no fault of their own like for medical reasons, the economy, or downsizing. If that person proves that the circumstances were out of her or his control, and they have been making diligent attempts to get replacement employment or income, albeit unsuccessfully, then they might convince the court that income should not be added in. Relevant questions might be “Where did you apply for jobs? Who did you talk to? What interviews did you go on? How often would you make applications each week? Did you receive any offers” – and so on. Ultimately, a court needs to weigh each side’s presentation for or against the imputation of income. Continue reading →