Michigan Child Support; “My Ex Refuses to Work.” Imputation of Income.

Child Support Calculation, Oakland CountyBy: Dennis M. Germain, Attorney & Counselor at Law

As a family law and divorce attorney, I frequently encounter clients and potential clients who state:

My ex refuses to work and I am stuck with an inflated or insufficient child support amount. What can I do?”

This article addresses the basic rules regarding imputation of income in calculating child support when one of the parents is voluntarily (1) unemployed, or (2) underemployed.  This article should be taken in the context of both the payee trying to have child support increased (because the payer is underemployed or unemployed) and the payer trying to have child support reduced (because the recipient is underemployed or unemployed).

As a background, child support is calculated under the Michigan Child Support Formula, as laid out in the 25 page long, 2013 Michigan Child Support Formula Manual.  Additionally, there is an 89 page long Supplement to the 2013 Michigan Child Support Formula.  While the Formula is complicated and takes into account many factors, the most important factors are (1) income, and (2) the number of overnights of parenting time exercised by each parent.

Given that the parents’ income is one of the two most important factors when calculating child support, it can certainly skew a fair result when one parent is not properly living up to his or her earning potential.  Luckily, the Formula takes this possibility into account by imputing “potential income” to the offending parent.  Under 2013 MCSF 2.01(G), an offending parent can be imputed the “income potential” he or she should be earning to offset an unfair child support output.

For example, in Michigan, the average certified pharmacy technician earns about $32,000 annually (gross).*  Thus, if the offending parent is qualified to be a certified pharmacy technician but unjustifiably refuses to work, that parent’s income should be input as $32,000, as opposed to $0.

It must be noted that the mere fact that a parent is underemployed or unemployed does not necessarily mean that parent will have potential income imputed to him or her.  There are a variety of circumstances that might justify underemployment or unemployment.  The Michigan Child Support Formula seemingly takes such circumstances into consideration through the following list of factors in determining “whether the parent in question has an actual ability to earn and a reasonable likelihood of earning the potential income:”

(a) Prior employment experience and history, including reasons for any termination or changes in employment.

(b) Educational level and any special skills or training.

(c) Physical and mental disabilities that may affect a parent’s ability to obtain or maintain gainful employment.

(d) Availability for work (exclude periods when a parent could not work or seek work, e.g., hospitalization, incarceration, debilitating illness, etc.).

(e) Availability of opportunities to work in the local geographical area.

(f) The prevailing wage rates in the local geographical area.

(g) Diligence exercised in seeking appropriate employment.

(h) Evidence that the parent in question is able to earn the imputed income.

(i) Personal history, including present marital status and present means of support.

(j) The presence of the parties’ children in the parent’s home and its impact on that parent’s earnings.

(k) Whether 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.**

Additionally, seeing as the 2013 Michigan Child Support Formula Manual is 25 pages long with an 89 page long supplement, one should imagine there are many other devices that can be used to ensure one is getting a fair child support output.  This article is simply about the basic rules regarding imputation of income, however, a variety of further articles dealing with ensuring an accurate child support output will be forthcoming by this author at the Best Interest Law informational Blog site.


* As reported by Mich.gov and Indeed.com.

** 2013 MCSF 2.01(G)(2)(a) – (k).

Please note that this article is intended to be academic in nature.  Its purpose is to serve as a memorialization of research as well as invoke community discussion.  This article shall not constitute legal advice.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Legal advice should be given on a case-by-case basis, as its accuracy is relative to the timing and particular facts of the given matter.  It is important to always consult an attorney regarding legal matters. ******************************************************************************

I am Dennis M. Germain, a family law attorney who promotes fair resolutions to domestic relations matters.  I primarily practice in Wayne County, Macomb County, and Oakland County, Michigan.  My office and contact information is listed as follows:


Best Interest Law
48639 Hayes Road, Suite A
Shelby Township, MI 48315

Ph: (586) 219-6454
Fax: (586) 439-0404
Email: Dennis.Germain@BestInterestLaw.com

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