After separating from the father, the mother had full-time custody of their two 17-year-old children. The father agreed to pay a set amount of child support, based on his long-distance trucker’s income of $66,000. However, he was prohibited from communicating with any of them, under the terms of his bail following a guilty plea for assaulting the mother.
About a month after the consent order for child support was made, he claimed that he had experienced a bout of encephalitis, which afflicted him with facial paralysis, dizziness, vertigo, and some mental impairment. He claimed he was no longer able to work at his job from that day forward; thus with no income, he claimed he was unable to pay child support.
However, he filed no current medical reports with the court to support that contention, other than certain 2-year-old notes and reports that the court found unhelpful. While it was true that he was on short-term disability right after he quit, he did not provide any evidence as to whether he even applied for long-term disability at all.
The court didn’t buy it.
The father had quit his job for no reason. His purported illness – which was medically confirmed not to have been a stroke – lasted only a short period of time. He did not lose his truck driver’s license because of it.
In short: the father had no valid excuse for not continuing to work and continuing to live up to his financial responsibilities to the children, as he had done before. He had essentially chosen not to continue working, likely as a bid to avoid his child support obligations entirely.
In light of the fact that he was capable of earning more, the court relied on one of the provisions of the Child Support Guidelines that allowed it to impute income. As the court explained:
Imputing income is one method by which the court gives effect to the joint and ongoing obligation of parents to support their children. In order to meet this obligation, the parties must earn what they are capable of earning. If they fail to do so, they will be found to be intentionally under-employed.
Notwithstanding the father’s current state of self-imposed unemployment, the court set the father’s income back at the $66,000 level. It ordered him to continue paying support at the same level as he had done before he quit, and sorted out the amount of the unpaid arrears as well.
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