THE COURT SAID I CAN EARN WHAT?!

In some instances a New Jersey Superior Court Judge will “impute” or assign an income to a party in order to calculate such things as child support and/or alimony. The Judge, however, must explain/justify the reason(s) why he/she imputed the amount in question to that individual. In terms of child support, pursuant to the New Jersey Court Rules, a Judge may impute an income to an individual based on, among other factors: (1) the employment status and earning capacity of that parent if the family had remained intact, (2) the reason and intent for the voluntary underemployment or unemployment, (3) the availability of other assets that me be used to pay support, and (4) the ages of any children in the parent’s household and child-care alternative.

In the recent case of Urban v. Green, Mr. Green (an attorney) appealed from an order setting his child support. He challenged factual assumptions made by the court regarding the imputation of income and the award of child-care costs to Urban, who was not working. Green argued there was no factual basis to impute income to him based on Department of Labor wage reports for practicing attorneys or to include his contribution to work-related child care when Urban was unemployed. The appellate panel reversed and remanded after determining the trial judge failed to support his conclusions regarding the imputation of income, including the amount of income imputed. The Judge did not provide the reasons for his decisions nor did he evaluate Green’s proofs of past earnings and present efforts to obtain work.

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