How To Impute Income To Unemployed Party

Pittsburgh divorce lawyer Anna CiardiQuestion:

Recently, the court determined that my ex-wife is underemployed and imputed her previous income to her for a child support modification motion she had entered.

Now, I have moved, changed jobs, and am attempting to modify the child support between myself and my ex-wife independently.

What should I use for her income? Can I use what the court imputed to her or should I use her current income, which is essentially nothing?


I am unable to give you legal advice on divorce. I can give general divorce help for men, though, my knowledge is based on Pennsylvania child support laws where I am licensed to practice.

A child support order may be modified upon a showing that substantial and material changes in circumstances have occurred. The party petitioning for the modification bears the burden of proving that a substantial and material change has occurred since the entry of the most recent order.

Given the limited information you provide in your question, it does sound like changes have occurred that would justify a modification. Moreover, where I practice, parties have an affirmative duty to notify the domestic relations sections of a change in employment or address.

Generally speaking, courts will impute income to a parent when a parent is underemployed or earning less that what they were previously earning without good reason. In other words, courts don’t allow parents to voluntarily stop working or drastically lower their incomes in order to avoid child support payments.

How Much Should You Be Paying?

State Child Support Calculators

Therefore, if your ex-wife is not working and there is no good reason why she is unemployed, it is likely that the court will impute some income to her. Courts determine this amount by examining several factors such as the party’s age, health, training, education, and time spent out of the work force. So you certainly wouldn’t want to calculate it using zero for her current income.

I recommend that you speak with an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction about how best to proceed with modifying your support order based on the changes that have taken place.

In the meantime, it sounds like your ex-wife is going to owe substantial arrears for the months that are passing where she is not paying, and a modified order can address this issue as well by specifying an amount to be paid each month toward arrears.

Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than divorce tips for men, so please consult with divorce lawyers for men in your jurisdiction.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Pittsburgh Divorce Lawyer Anna M. Ciardi, contact Cordell & Cordell.

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2 comments on “How To Impute Income To Unemployed Party

    What’s PA law when the custodial parent is evading gainful employment in order to skew the child support calculation?

    PA law is it doesn’t matter if you’re a dad. PA courts will allow a mother to be underemployed.

    In my case, my ex-wife earned the equivalent of over $60,000+/year working part time. Mostly, every other weekend on her non-custodial weekend. It took me a year to get the PA court system to impute her full time earnings potential at $60,000 (still less than she was actually earning part-time).

    Despite the fact that the majority of her employment time is during non-custodial periods, that two of our three children are in school, and the third attends a part time program, and the fact that her partner works at home.

    The Pennsylvania court system thought it totally reasonable to allow her to claim $14,000 dollars in daycare costs without any substantial proof of the expenses.


    Because the state gets Federal funds based on the collection of support money.

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