Daniel J. Lounsbury Attorney at Law Willamette Valley Legal
Local: 503.967.3119
Toll Free: 800.615.7072

When a parent is unemployed or underemployed

The job market in Oregon can be tough, particularly for people in certain professions. However, there are times when a custodial parent may wonder whether the other parent is really attempting to find a job commensurate with his or her skills. After all, a lower paying job results in a different child support calculation. 

According to the Oregon Department of Justice, a parent cannot get out of paying a reasonable amount of child support by refusing to work, or by working at a job that does not pay what he or she could potentially earn. In the past, there was a presumption that the parent would make at least minimum wage, and child support was figured on that if the parent was unemployed. However, now, if the current job or lack of it is not a good indicator of what standard of living the child should have, the court uses a number of factors to determine the amount of child support the parent should pay, including the following:

  • Education
  • Work history
  • Job skills and qualifications
  • Physical and mental health
  • Job opportunities in the area
  • Income levels in the area

The court may also refer to data provided by the Oregon Labor Market Information System.

The Oregon DoJ notes that there are circumstances when the court will not impute potential income. For example, a disabled parent who cannot work will not be able to pay based on minimum wage. However, in such a case, any benefits related to the disability, such as workers' compensation, Social Security disability or veterans benefits do count as income that can be used to calculate child support. A parent who is incarcerated is also not subject to imputed income. 

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