When calculating child support in Missouri, the Court is required to determine a presumed amount of child support pursuant to Form 14. Neal v. Neal, 941 S.W.2d 501, 504 (Mo. 1997). The starting point for Form 14 is a determination of each parent’s monthly gross income. Ricklefs v. Ricklefs, 39 S.W.3d 865, 874 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001). The accompanying instructions to Form 14 state that if a parent is unemployed or found to be underemployed, gross income may be based on imputed income. The question, therefore, is when may a Court impute income in a divorce, paternity or child support action?
To be clear, when a Court “imputes” income to a party it essentially attributes money to that person as if they earn and/or possess it. Thus, while you may only make $2,500 per month from wages, a Court can in proper circumstances impute additional income.
The Court’s determination of whether to impute income to a party is discretionary. Kohl v. Kohl, 397 S.W.3d 510, 516 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013). A Court may impute income to a party according to what the party could earn by using best efforts to gain employment suitable to his or her capacities. Krepps v. Krepps, 234 S.W.3d 605, 612 (Mo. Ct. App. 2007). Proper circumstances may include situations where a parent has voluntarily reduced his or her income without justification or has lost his or her job involuntarily but has failed to use his or her best efforts to secure new employment, refused offers of employment, or failed to make a showing that the unemployment was something other than temporary.