It’s easy to see why a parent wouldn’t pursue child support if another parent is unemployed. Getting any kind of financial assistance from someone who isn’t working may seem like getting blood from a stone: impossible and absurd. You may have already experienced a lot of frustration when it comes to your unemployed ex-partner. Receiving child support may seem like an impossible task.
It’s important to note that being unemployed does not necessarily exempt a parent from their child support obligation. It depends on the circumstances surrounding the unemployment. Why did they become unemployed? Was their unemployment voluntary? Unfortunately, some parents will work less for the sole purpose of minimizing their child support obligation. Thankfully, there are laws in place in Louisiana to prevent this from affecting the other parent.
When it comes to child support in Louisiana, there are essentially three categories of underemployed/unemployed parents:
- Parents who are voluntarily unemployed (not working by choice);
- Parents who are voluntarily underemployed (working less or part-time by choice); or
- Parents who are involuntarily unemployed or underemployed (through no fault of their own).
If you’re seeking child support from an underemployed or unemployed parent, the category that they fall into makes all the difference in how much they are obligated to pay.
If the parent is found to be involuntarily unemployed, due to something like a serious disability or injury, child support may be decreased or dismissed altogether. If the parent is found to be unemployed or underemployed voluntarily, or of his or her own will, child support may be calculated based on an assessment of the parent’s income earning potential. Essentially, the court may estimate what that parent could make if he or she were fully employed. Often, the unemployed parent’s previous experience, education, and earning potential is evaluated, along with research in what others in their field earn in Louisiana. This is called “imputing income”, and the child support amount required of that party is often determined based on that estimation.
Like anything when it comes to the law, there are case-by-case, situational nuances that can be exceptions to the rule. Every child support claim comes with a unique set of circumstances, which is why meeting with an attorney is so important. For example, in one case (Saussy v. Saussy, 638 So. 2d 711 (La. App. 3d Cir. 1994), a father became unemployed due to a dispute with his employer. He then went on to take a lesser-paying job, in a field that didn’t fully use his past work experience, so that he could have more time with his children. In this situation, the father was found to be acting “in good faith”, and therefore his child support was adjusted accordingly. In contrast, a father quit his job to move to Florida and took a lesser-paying job there (Johnson v. Johnson, 683 So. 2d 831 (La. Ct. App. 5th Cir. 1996)). In this instance, his decrease in income was considered voluntary and request to decrease child support was denied. It’s important to have a professional assess your case so that you understand your options.