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Courts may consider potential income when setting child support

Minnesota child support is calculated using guidelines that take into consideration the income of both parents. But what if an obligated parent is voluntarily underemployed, unemployed or working part-time? What if there is no clear evidence of the obligated parent's income? In these situations the court must calculate child support based on the parent's potential income.

In determining a parent's potential income, the court may consider the parent's likely earnings based on their work history and qualifications, taking into account employment opportunities and income levels in the community. The court will presume the parent can work 40 hours a week in most cases. Alternatively, the court can base its child support calculations on the amount the parent could earn working 30 hours per week at minimum wage, or on the amount of unemployment or workers compensation benefits the parent receives.

A parent's underemployment, unemployment or less than full time employment will not be considered voluntary if it is temporary and leading to an increased income, if it is related to a genuine career change or if the parent is disabled. It will also not be considered voluntary if the parent is incarcerated -- as long as the incarceration is not for failure to pay child support.

Issues of potential income in child support cases can be complex. Addressing these issues requires a thorough analysis of the obligor's employment situation as well as a sophisticated understanding of the law in this area. A child support obligor or recipient with questions about imputing potential income can benefit from consulting a knowledgeable Minnesota family law attorney.

Source: Minn. Stat. § 518A.32, accessed June 18, 2016

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