It is not unheard of for noncustodial parents in Alabama and around the country to earn less than they are capable of or take off-the-books jobs in order to lower the amount of child support they are required to pay. This is referred to as voluntary impoverishment, and the Office of Child Support Enforcement takes it very seriously. When the OCSE suspects that a noncustodial parent is voluntarily impoverished, they may act in a number of ways.
One way the OCSE deals with voluntary impoverishment is by imputing a noncustodial parent’s income. When this is done, child support awards are based on what the noncustodial parent should be earning instead of what he or she actually is making. The OCSE bases the imputed income figure on the noncustodial parent’s level of education and previous earnings history. However, establishing that someone is intentionally unemployed, underemployed or hiding income can be difficult.
The OCSE may study credit reports when making these determinations, and investigators may contact lending institutions when noncustodial parents have recently borrowed money to make large purchases. The income figure that they listed on their credit application is then compared to the amount they claim to be earning for child support purposes. Custodial parents who believe that their exes are voluntarily impoverished can contact the OCSE for assistance. They can also get in touch with the agency for updates during the course of its investigation.
Attorneys with experience in child support issues could also help custodial parents in this situation. While government officials work under heavy caseloads and must operate according to strict bureaucratic rules, the investigators that attorneys use may give getting to the bottom of involuntary impoverishment cases their undivided attention. Lawyers could also call on investigators to employ skip-tracing techniques when noncustodial parents move to another state and leave no forwarding address or are working under an assumed name.