ANOTHER ASPECT OF IMPUTED INCOME

December 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ve discussed imputed income here before. In essence, income can be imputed where the payor claims reduced income or incapacity in certain situations.

Another situation for imputed income arises where the judge finds that the payor has greater income than is reported on the financial statement and in the testimony. Such was the case in Brooks v. Brooks, decided by the COA on December 13, 2011.

In Brooks, at ¶ 9, the COA upheld the trial court’s decision not to accept the husband’s testimony about his income. The husband, Brandon, was a self-employed attorney who reported fluctuating income. The chancellor relied on Brandon’s 2007 income tax return to determine income because that was the only tax return he provided; he did not offer his 2008 or 2009 returns into evidence. In the absence of the two subsequent returns, the COA ruled, it was reasonable for the court to rely on and draw conclusions from the information submitted.

Brandon also contended that his income was insufficient to pay alimony to his former wife, Dawn, in the amount ordered, but the COA rejected that argument, at ¶ 22:

The chancellor found that Dawn could not meet her expenses without assistance from Brandon. Even working part time, she would not be able to meet her obligations. Further, we agree with the chancellor’s finding that Brandon failed to show evidence that he was unable to pay alimony. In awarding the alimony, the chancellor noted:

“. . . Brandon, who has been paying the court-ordered support since June 22, 2009, has been able to pay support to Dawn in the amount of $250 per week, plus the house note, plus household expenses, without any increase in debt. Exhibit 2 shows debt only for the home mortgage, a car note for a vehicle Brandon purchased after the separation, and a student loan. Since neither party has reported any sizeable cash on hand, it is obvious that Brandon could manage to pay Dawn’s support from either of only two sources: current income; or newly-acquired debt. Since he reports no new debt the conclusion is inescapable that Brandon has been paying Dawn from current income, and that he is managing to pay his other expenses in like manner. In addition, Brandon testified at trial that he would be willing to pay the house note for Dawn and the children’s benefit if he could have extra visitation, which the court finds to be a curious position for a person who claims to be unable to meet his expenses with the amount of income he has.”

From the payor’s standpoint, the more accurate and credible evidence you offer the court to establish income, the better off your client will be. Explain and document discrepancies and inconsistences, or run the risk that the court will construe them against your client.

From the recipient’s standpoint, attack income information and don’t take it at face value. You might persuade the judge to find that there is more income there than is being reported.

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