Imputation Part II - What you need to know

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By Marie E. Matyjaszek

This article follows my previous one about imputation that was printed January 5. It will continue looking at the Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF) 2017 imputation factors found in §2.01(G), and examine the remaining factors considered by the court when assigning a parent “potential income” for purposes of calculating child support.

Factor (g) – “[d]iligence exercised in seeking appropriate employment,” is a great factor for causing drama in a hearing. I’ve never had a case where both parties agree that the unemployed or underemployed parent is trying his or her best to look for a job.  Usually, the word lazy is tossed around, along with allegations of mooching and playing the infamous “system.”  It’s loads of fun, but I digress. This factor requires the court to inquire into exactly what the parent has been doing to obtain employment – has he or she applied to jobs online?  In person?  Attended job fairs?  Gone to staffing or contract agencies?  You get the idea – the more effort put forth, the better.

The next factor, (h), takes a look at what evidence there is “that the parent in question is able to earn the imputed income.” Has this parent been able to earn a similar (or higher) amount of income in the past?  Does he or she have college degrees or post-graduate degrees that could command a certain level of income? It’s important to be realistic with imputation, and ensure that the figure used is actually obtainable.

Personal history and one’s current life situation is examined in factor (i) – the court has to look at marital status, how the party is supporting him or herself, criminal records, driver’s license status and how he or she gets around town. If a person doesn’t have a car or access to a reliable mode of transportation, it makes it pretty hard to obtain, and subsequently maintain, a job.  A significant criminal record, or certain convictions, can definitely reduce the overall size of the job market for a person as well.

Parenting time, or how often the kiddos are in each parent’s house, is important to imputation also, as evidenced by factor (j). The more time the children are present, the greater the financial strain on that parent’s wallet. If the kids are hardly ever with the imputed parent, he or she is not going to be forking over as much cash to care for them.

The last factor, (k), considers if “there has been a significant reduction in income compared to the period that preceded the filing of the initial complaint or the motion for modification.”  What has changed from then to now?  Typically, people don’t file for support reviews unless something has changed, usually income or job status, despite how much I would like to think that people simply love dealing with the court.

The court has a lot to ponder when it comes to assigning a party potential, or imputed, income.  The factors are imperative in deciding what’s appropriate, and it violates case law and the MCSF Manual if each one is not addressed. The more knowledge that both parties, and the court, have about the imputed party’s background and history, the better chance for a fair outcome for all involved.

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The author is an Attorney Referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; however, the views expressed in this column are her own.  Her blog site is: http://legalbling.blogspot.com. She can be reached by e-mailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.
 

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