The Supreme Court of New Jersey faced in interesting issue regarding the imputation of income in Caplan v. Caplan, 182 N.J. 250 (2005). In this case, the Father previously had earned seven figures for a number of years. However, he was terminated from his employment and never sought to regain the same income that he previously made. He was making enough income through his investment income to cover child support for the parties’ two (2) children. As such the trial court deemed that a further imputation was unnecessary because there was sufficient income to cover his child support obligation. However, the Mother in this matter argued that if the Court did not impute an income onto the Father, then their split on child related expenses that are not covered by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines will be incorrectly calculated.
The Supreme Court initially noted that the fairness of a child support award is dependent on the accurate assessment of a parent’s net income. Without this assessment, it will throw off the entire child support calculation. The Court further stated that when dealing with high income parents, a deviation may be necessary pursuant to the Court Rules. Additionally, the Court must look at all of the factors as set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 regarding child support and income. When looking at whether to impute income onto a person, the Court must look at whether there is just cause for the alleged underemployment. “In making that decision, the court should consider the employment status and earning capacity of that parent had the family remained intact; the reason for and intent behind the voluntary underemployment or unemployment; the extent other assets are available to pay support; and the ages of any children in the parent's household as well as child-care alternatives.”