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South Dakota Judges Can Impute Income in Determining Child Support

Drew Duncan
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan and Cole, LLP

In South Dakota, both parents are required to equally support their minor children. The judge will look at a number of factors—including both parents’ income—in determining the amount of child support the non-custodial parent will owe.  Unfortunately, some parents will voluntarily reduce their income in an effort to lower their child support. However, the court is not required to accept this income amount in setting the amount they have to pay. Instead, the court may impute the income, or treat the income as if it is more than it actually is, if it suspects the parent is intentionally earning less than he or she is capable of to avoid paying child support.

When the Court Will Impute Income in South Dakota

While a judge will not impute income when a parent legitimately had a reduction in income due to unemployment or underemployment, he can do so if the person is trying to avoid his child support obligations. The judge will first need to determine whether the loss of income was voluntary or involuntary. Factors that indicate the loss of income was involuntary include:

  • The parent cannot work due to a physical or mental disability.
  • The parent cannot work because he has to take care of a physically or mentally disabled child.
  • The parent was laid off or otherwise involuntarily lost his job.
  • The parent has been seeking employment, but has been unable to obtain a job at his prior income level.

If a parent voluntarily left his job, the judge will look to the reasons for doing so in determining whether the reduction of income was justified. He would be unlikely to impute income in these situations:

  • If the parent is making a career switch that could result in him being able to earn more income in the future
  • If the parent moved to a different city to be with a new spouse and was unable to find a job that paid as much as his previous job

When a spouse did something on purpose to get fired—such as failing to show up for work for no reason—the judge could impute the income he was making at that job in calculating child support.

If you suspect your spouse has reduced his income in an effort to lower his child support obligations, you need an experienced family law attorney to help you get the child support you are entitled to. Call us at 888-733-2992 to schedule a free no-obligation consultation.


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