Attorney Eric D. Puryear

Imputing Income in Child Support Cases

Puryear Law » Legal Blog » Family Law in General » Imputing Income in Child Support Cases

Child support in Illinois and Iowa are based in large part upon the income of the parent who is paying child support.  That makes determining the proper amount of income for child support an important aspect of the case.  The Iowa District Court and the Illinois Circuit Court have the authority to impute income to either party when child support is being calculated.


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Imputing income refers to the situation when the court pretends that a person makes more income then they actually make, thereby increasing the amount of child support that a person is ordered to pay.  The courts in Illinois and Iowa will impute income for a variety of reasons.  A common reason to impute income is that a person chose to give up income by quitting a job or purposefully getting themselves fired, so as to avoid child support.  Another common situation would involve a person taking or keeping a job that is lower paying than their experience and education would suggest is reasonable, so as to try and lower child support payments (e.g. a skilled engineer choosing to work as a fast food cashier).

The legal theory behind imputing income for child support is that a person should not be able to intentionally lower their income to dodge child support, as that causes undue hardship to the child and other parent.  Public policy in Illinois and Iowa strongly support the notion that a parent should be financially responsible for their child, and the legal doctrine of imputing income is seen as a way to take away a person’s incentive to try and avoid child support by being unemployed or underemployed.

However, the imputation of income for child support purposes can also work injustice if done improperly.  There are situations where a person’s income is lower than might appear proper, yet in reality that income is all that a person is able to make, and setting child support too high will cause great hardship.  Thus, imputation of income is a tool that can work either justice or injustice.


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A person with a child support case where there is a dispute as to the income of either party for child support purposes is well advised to seek an attorney, as properly handling the situation is vital to a person’s financial future.


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