A key factor for child and spousal support is personal income.  What if one spouse alleges the other spouse is underemployed?  Well, the Court (or the parties by agreement) can impute income.

Imputing income or deeming income is where a specific income will be used for the legal process, even though the person may earn less.

For example, if person A is imputed income of $30,000, then that amount will be used for the child and spousal support calculations even if person A actually earns $6,000.

In Alberta, the factors and guidelines for imputing income are from the Federal Child Support Guidelines s19, and the 2022 Alberta Court of Appeal decision of Peters v Atchooay, 2022 ABCA 347. 

The factors, guidelines and principles include:

-Is the reduction in income non-voluntary? Examples: lay off, termination of employment without cause; illness/disability.

-Does it fall within the limited exceptions of the Guidelines, such as where reduced hours or unemployment is required by the needs of a child?

-Imputing income is discretionary: what is reasonable in the circumstances and facts of each case?

-The standard is “reasonable” income. This is measured against earning capacity considering: the person’s age, work experience, skills, education, health, childcare obligations, jobs available, and a general duty to work.

-If underemployment is found, the amount of income imputed will also be grounded in those factors and evidence.

-Imputation can change over time: typically, an income is imputed for 1 year and then can be re-assessed as facts change.

Examples: a previous stay at home healthy parent re-entering the workforce with outdated skills may be imputed minimum wage income.  Someone who leaves a career job to follow a personal low-paying passion job may be imputed their prior career level income. That person can still follow their passion but will pay child support on the imputed income.

This is a brief summary and the case lists 7 key principles: Citation: Peters v Atchooay, 2022 ABCA 347

If you are in this situation, legal advice can assist in how to present or defend your case, and know the reasonable ranges for settlement.

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Written by Ceri Chwieros

Best Lawyer: Cheri Chwieros Recoginised: 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024