How does voluntary underemployment affect child support?

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2024 | Child And Spousal Support

Child support can quickly become a contentious topic between divorcing parents – particularly when the non-custodial parent doesn’t want to pay their fair share of the money.

In some cases, parents in that position have been known to remain (or arrange to become) “voluntarily underemployed” just to lower their child support obligation.

What does voluntarily underemployed mean?

Generally speaking, a parent’s income is the number one factor that the courts examine when determining child support obligations. A parent who is unemployed through no fault of their own 

When one parent decides to limit their income by purposefully remaining unemployed, working part-time when they have the option to work full-time or working “under the table” or “off the books,” that’s considered a purposeful attempt to reduce their child support payments or evade them altogether. 

If the other parent raises the issue with the court, the court can impose a child support obligation based on the underemployed parent’s potential or imputed income – rather than their actual income. When making that determination, the court will look at things like the underemployed parent’s:

  • Education level 
  • Skill set
  • Prior work experience
  • Previous income history
  • Age and health

The court may also consider the economic opportunities in the area and average earnings levels in the local community. If the court doesn’t have enough information, it can use the federal minimum wage level as a baseline income for that parent.

If your co-parent is refusing to meet their child support obligation, you can fight back. Legal guidance that’s tailored to your situation can help you succeed in protecting your child’s well-being.


FindLaw Network
10 Best | Client Satisfaction | American Institute of Family Law Attorneys | 2016
BBB | Accredited Business | A+ Rating
Avvo | Clients' Choice | Family Law | 2017
Lake County Bar Association
Indiana State Bar Association
The National Trial Lawyers | Trial Lawyers