Child Support And A Parent’s Earning Potential

Child Support And A Parent’s Earning Potential

by Apr 19, 2017Child Support

During a marriage, a family may arrange for one parent to be the primary wage earner while the other is primarily responsible for parenting and household management. But in divorce, both parents are equally responsible for supporting their children. For child support, the court may consider an unemployed parent’s earning potential if it is in the best interest of the children.

The first thing the child support calculator determines is each parent’s disposable income. Child support is based on each parent’s current financial circumstances which can change over time. In determining the amount, the child support calculator takes into account each parent’s wages or salary and also any investment income.

Unemployed And Underemployed Parents

If a parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court can consider the parent’s earning potential in determining ability to pay. The court doesn’t need to find that the parent is willingly choosing to stay unemployed. If it is in the best interest of the children, the court can factor the parent’s earning potential into the amount of child support, even if there isn’t actual income.

A parent’s current earning potential isn’t necessarily determined by the parent’s previous employment. It takes into consideration the parent’s current circumstances, relevance of skills, and whether or not comparable employment is actually available. The court can also consider whether a parent’s investment assets are earning up to their full potential.

The court determines a parent’s earning potential by considering the parent’s skill, education, and experience, along with whether appropriate employment is available. The court may also take into account the availability of affordable daycare in determining whether employment makes financial sense. In some cases, it may actually be more costly for a parent to work.

Once a parent’s ability to pay is called into question and reasons are presented, it is then up to that parent to show that the assessment is inaccurate or unreasonable. The parent can argue that he or she does not actually possess the required skills or that such employment is unavailable. It is important to demonstrate that the parent has made an effort to find a job.

Earning Potential vs Actual Income

The court may base child support on a parent’s earning potential, rather than actual income, in situations where a parent has voluntarily left a well-paying job and is now supported by a new partner. However, the court may make exceptions when the parent has been fired or when it is genuinely in the children’s best interest for the parent to stay home.

Additionally, the court may simply factor in a parent’s ability to earn minimum wage. As minimum wage employment generally does not require any particular skill or experience, it can be hard to argue that an able-bodied parent is unqualified for this type of work.

Every Situation Is Unique

It is important to remember that every situation has its own unique set of circumstances, and there are many reasons why it may not be appropriate to expect an unemployed parent to find a job.

For those that are going through a divorce with one or more children, it is important to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process and ensure the best outcome for you and your children.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

13 + 15 =