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Handle imputations of income appeals with care

California child support laws make both parents equally responsible for the financial well-being of their children--which means each parent's income has to be considered when calculating how much child support is owed or received.

Every so often, however, a parent will intentionally reduce one's income, either to reduce how much support he or she has to pay or to increase how much support the individual will receive. Sometimes the parent won't actually reduce one's income, just find a way to shift it around somehow so that it doesn't appear on any tax forms in order to keep it from being used in the support calculations.

There's usually a few different signs that this is what's happening:

--A self-employed parent doesn't show a change in lifestyle but reports less business income or shows a sudden loss.

--A parent who works for relatives or friends suddenly takes a pay cut that he or she claims is necessary, but you suspect that the same money is being paid "under the table."

--A parent suddenly claims that the overtime which he or she always worked before is no longer available.

--A parent manages to get one's employer to provide free rent or a free vehicle in lieu of actual wages in order to reduce his or her reportable income.

In many cases, the attempts to fool the court are disingenuous at best--and the judge sees right through it. When that happens, the court can attribute, or "impute," income to the parent and base the support calculations off of that imputed income.

If the deception is successful, however, and the court's convinced, that can leave one parent struggling and the children going without.

Appealing a judge's decision about imputed decision can require the use of advanced testimony, including forensic accountants and vocational experts. The burden is on the person seeking the imputed income, meaning that he or she has to prove to the court that it would be appropriate to assign more income to the other parent than his or her tax records show. That makes it particularly important to have an attorney who is familiar with both imputed income issues and the appellate process.

For more information on imputed income and family law appeals, please check out our site.