Article by Daniel A. Levy, Esq.

I represent clients in all sorts of child support related cases. Although child support is generally a standardized system in New Jersey, many issues routinely arise during these cases. Once issue that comes up with great frequency is the question of calculating child support when one parent cannot produce a pay stub.

By way of background, the court will always request that parents bring pay stubs to court so that the court staff can calculate child support using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are the product of a great deal of economic study and legislation. Basically, the guidelines look at the incomes of the parents, give credits for things like taxes, medical expenses, child care, etc. and then come to a bottom line number of the amount of money that is theoretically needed to support the child. That number is then divided between the two parents based on their percentages of total income for the parents, and in some cases also based on how many overnight visits the non-custodial parent enjoys. The result is a bottom-line child support number, which will be used in the resulting court order.

Having said this, it is obvious that the court cannot make this calculation without knowing the incomes for both parents. And many parents are fearful that the court will not order proper child support if one parent cannot produce a pay stub, for example, if they simply refuse to cooperate with the court, if they work “off the books”, if the choose not to work, if they have their own business and they hide their income, etc. But I assure all of my clients that the court will still order child by way of imputing income.

What this means is that the court will essentially ignore the fact that the parent has not produced a pay stub and pretend that they make the amount of money that someone in their position who is fully employed should make. This is called, imputing income. Take this example: Let’s say that the father worked as a plumber but came to court and said that his boss just pays him cash. The court can refer to economic tables of income and see the average income of a plumber in the area. The court would then impute that income to the father and run the guidelines that way. Here is another example of this system used in a slightly different way: Let’s say that the mother worked as a doctor for the past 20 years and now all of a sudden she decides to quit the practice of medicine and teach yoga. In such a case, the court would not use the yoga teaching income but impute the doctor income to her (these were roughly the facts of an important New Jersey case on this topic). This method of imputing income is routinely done when a parent comes to court with income information and the information is simply unbelievable; for example, the person is self-employed as a contractor and claims to make only $10,000 per year.

The important thing to remember is that the court may only go through the full process if proper applications are made. Therefore, if you have any questions about this area you should consult with an attorney for guidance.