In New Mexico, both parents are obligated to support their children until they become self-supporting or turn 21 years old in most cases. When parents are not living together, the parent whom the child primarily lives with can receive child support from the other parent. This money is meant to help cover the cost of the child’s needs, from daily living needs to larger expenses such as education.
Unfortunately, in some cases, a parent does not want to pay this support or feels the amount set by the court is too high but cannot have it modified. To try to avoid the obligation, he or she may quit a job or take a job that pays a lot less than his or her true earning potential. If you are in this situation with your co-parent, speak to a family law attorney as you do have options to increase your odds of receiving the amount you’re entitled to.
Imputing Income in New Mexico
When the court believes a parent is reducing income on purpose to pay less in child support, it can impute income for that parent instead. This is when the court will assign that parent an income that is more than what he or she is making because the court feels the parent could, in fact, be making more to support the kids. The support guidelines in New Mexico allow the court to consider a parent’s potential income when the parent isn’t working or is underemployed by being at a job for which he or she is overqualified.
Before the court will impute an income for a parent, the judge has to find that the parent has lost his or her job or taken a job that was lower-paying on purpose, for the express reason of paying less child support. Of course, the court will not do this to a parent who is out of work legitimately. If, for example, a parent is laid off or has his or her hours reduced through no fault of his or her own, the judge will not impute income because this usually means the situation was out of the parent’s control. In a similar manner, a parent who becomes mentally or physically incapable of of working will not be viewed as reducing income on purpose.
In addition, the higher courts of New Mexico have ruled that a parent is not considered underemployed for child support purposes if he or she would be only be able to make more money in a different state where the child does not live.
The Imputation Process
Once the court has determined that a parent is making no money or less than money than he or she could to avoid child support, the court will begin the imputation process. A number of factors will be considered for the purposes of the income estimation, including the parent’s employment history and education; earning capacity; his or her lifestyle; and the services, goods or money currently provided to that parent by family and friends. This is often not a simple task, as the court is trying to accurately determine what that parent would earn if he or she was working a job within his or her experience and/or education level, and the parent may object to its findings.
Speak to a New Mexico family law attorney about your child support case if you think imputation will be involved. This can get complex quickly, so having legal help by your side will ensure your child support ends up being fair and reasonable given the specific circumstances of your case.