Collecting child support from voluntarily impoverished parent

It is not uncommon for parents who are subject to child support orders in California to employ a strategy of voluntary impoverishment to avoid their obligations. Voluntary impoverishment refers to a situation in which the parent either under-reports his or her earnings or earns less money than he or she could. The issue can be difficult for the parent who is entitled to receive child support payments.

The government agencies in charge of enforcing child support orders take voluntary impoverishment seriously. When a complaint is filed, they will examine the non-paying parent’s financial records and employment history in an effort to determine how much he or she should be able to pay. If the parent is choosing to be underemployed, courts and other government entities may have the authority to impute his or her income. This means the amount of child support payments will be based on what the parent should be earning, as opposed to what he or she is actually earning.

The movement toward gig economy jobs and independent contractor work makes it easier for some parents to hide income from the IRS and the other parent. In cases where one parent believes the other is distorting reported income in order to avoid paying child support, the parent may have recourse through the legal system. An attorney might be able to help in such cases by looking for evidence of unreported income or by arguing that the payor-parent is voluntarily impoverished.

An attorney who has experience practicing family law might draft an action seeking child support payments or seeking to increase the amount of payments that have already been ordered. If it is determined that the payor-parent is attempting to avoid support obligations, he or she may be punished criminally or the other parent may be able to garnish wages or seize funds in order to satisfy amounts outstanding.