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Does parental unemployment/underemployment affect child support?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | Child Support

In North Carolina, child support is meant to provide for the child’s fundamental needs such as a safe place to live, clothes, proper nutrition, education, school supplies, health care, extracurricular activities and more.

State guidelines help to calculate how much a noncustodial parent must pay, based on the parents’ incomes and the child’s needs. Not every case is the same and if a parent is not earning as much as they potentially could or are simply not working as a matter of choice, this can affect the child support amount. People in this situation should understand how it will be addressed.

Understanding potential or imputed income as part of child support

When determining child support amounts, a court looks at both parents’ income. As part of that, the court needs to know if the parent is willfully unemployed, meaning they could find a job if they wanted to. It is also possible that they are underemployed with a job that pays less that they could earn based on education, work history, experience and training.

If the person is engaging in these behaviors as a tacit attempt to lower their income so their child support obligation is impacted, the court can use that when it makes its child support calculation. Parents who are incapacitated mentally or physically will not be subject to this type of analysis. If a parent is incarcerated, courts do not view this as being voluntarily unemployed.

In some cases, the parent is unemployed or underemployed because they need to stay at home to care for a young child or a child with mental or physical disabilities. That could obviously hinder their chances of finding suitable employment no matter how qualified they are or what job experience they have. Those without experience or work history will be viewed based on the state minimum wage for a 35-hour workweek.

Child support disputes require experience and preparation

As with most aspects of a family law case, child support can spark disagreement. If a parent believes the other parent is not working or is not earning as much income as they could be, the court will need to decide how to calculate the support amount. For these complicated situations, both parents need to know how to proceed to reach a fair outcome and ensure everyone – particularly the child – is treated fairly.