COA Affirmed Husband was Voluntarily Underemployed, but the Income Imputation was Remanded


FAMILY LAW CASE REVIEW:

By Michael R. Kohlhaas, Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs, PC


Walters v. Walters (April 22, 2022) (Voluntary Underemployment / Child Support Case)

HELD: Trial court acted within its discretion when it found Husband to be voluntarily underemployed for child support purposes, but the amount of income to which Husband was imputed was remanded for a hearing on how much Husband could reasonably expect to earn in the community in which he lived. FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Husband and Wife have three children together. Wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in 2019. Husband had approximately 20 years of work experience in the pipeline industry as a boom operator and supervisor. Husband earned approximately $200,000 per year from 2016 to 2018, though this required Husband to live and work in West Virginia, apart from Wife and the children for months at a time. At the final hearing, Wife testified that Husband frequently threatened to become a "deadbeat” and not pay child support in the event of a divorce. After Wife filed, Husband did not return to the pipeline industry, and instead began working as a car salesman making $2,500 per month. The trial court found Wife’s testimony that Husband would deliberately become a deadbeat to be credible and found that Husband was voluntarily underemployed. Further, the trial court imputed to Husband a level of income that was consistent with what Husband earned in 2016-2018. Husband appealed. On the issue of whether Husband was voluntarily underemployed, the Court of Appeals viewed Husband’s appeal as an invitation to reweigh the evidence presented to the trial court, which it declined to do. However, as to the amount of income imputed to Husband, the Court of Appeals was concerned that no evidence was presented that Husband could continue to earn an income locally similar to what he earned in 2016-2018 working in West Virginia. The trial court had specifically entered a finding that it was not requiring Husband to return to work in West Virginia. Thus, the finding that Husband was voluntarily underemployed was affirmed, but the income imputation determination was remanded “for a hearing on Husband’s prevailing job opportunities and earnings levels in the community.” ___________________________________


James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs, PC, is the premiere boutique family law firm in the state of Indiana. Visit the firm’s website at https://www.cgblawfirm.com

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