Perhaps one of the most frustrating conversations a Los Angeles parent can have with her former spouse or significant other tells her that, on his current income, he cannot afford to pay a child support amount that will meet the children’s needs.
Of course, in some cases, this is perfectly understandable. Californians do lose their jobs for a number of reasons beyond their control and may suffer other temporary financial setbacks.
However, there are many other cases in which a parent just uses lack of income as an excuse when, really, she does not want to pay child support.
A parent in this situation, who would rightly feel offended, has legal options that might help him correct the situation:
Income is broadly defined in California for child support purposes
First, the parent may want to be sure she understands to the fullest extent possible how the other parent is supporting himself if he is unemployed and underemployed.
The reason is that, in California, income includes a lot of items when it comes to calculating child support, even if that income would not result in tax consequences to the parent earning it.
For example, a self-employed parent may for tax purposes be able to write off a lot of losses and expenditures which, although legal on paper, are not actually required to operate his business. A judge may choose to ignore these write-offs when determining child support.
A judge may choose to consider a parent’s earning capacity
If a parent suspects that the other parent could be earning more, he may also ask the judge to consider the other parent’s earning capacity, that is, what the parent could be earning based on her skills, experience and training, when calculating child support.
Doing so may be an option when a parent could work but is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. It may also apply if a high-earner decides to make a mid-life career change and take a large pay cut in the process.