A previous post on this blog discussed what all counts as income when it comes to figuring out how much child support an Arizona mother or father is going to have to pay. How much income each parent makes is often a difficult question to answer since, in many cases, figuring out how much income a person makes is more than just looking at a person’s paycheck. For example, many Tempe residents do not earn the same income week after week but instead work jobs in which income varies.
In some situations, a court may even “impute” or attribute income to a parent even though that parent is not actually making that money. In Arizona, a court will typically impute at least the equivalent of what the parent would earn by working a minimum wage job full time, presumably under the logic that any-bodied adult would be able to perform a job at minimum wage.
A court is not under an obligation to impute any income to a parent, and has the discretion not to impute income at all if the parent is facing some special circumstances. These circumstances can include suffering from a disability or having to stay at home in order to care for a child full time, so long as the child’s medical needs require the parent’s full-time attention.
Moreover, Arizona courts will not automatically assume someone who has earned over minimum wage in the past is capable of doing so again and, thus, capable of paying additional support. A court will not “impute” income if doing so would punish someone who is not unemployed or underemployed by choice, such as in the case of a lay off. Even if a person is voluntarily making less than what they have made or could earn, the court will first consider whether the reasons a person is making less and balancing those reasons against the child’s interest in having more support money.