Income’s Relation to Spousal Support and Child Support
In most Utah divorce actions, especially divorces involving minor children, the Court has to have proof of the parties’ income so that it can determine what the child support and spousal support amounts should be. The income amount that the court considers is the “adjusted gross income” of the parties. To find out what the adjusted gross income is, you first have to determine what is the “gross income,” which includes “salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, rents, gifts from anyone, prizes, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, alimony from previous marriages, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment compensation, income replacement disability insurance benefits, and payments from “nonmeans-tested” government programs.” Utah Code 78B-12-203.
The adjusted gross income is gross income minus “alimony previously ordered and paid and child support previously ordered.” Utah Code 78B-12-204. There is a caveat though in determining gross income and adjusted gross income. When looking at earned income, only a 40 hour work week is considered unless a party “normally and consistently” works more than 40 hours a week prior to the support order, but this only applies to child support. For purposes of alimony, all earned income is considered.
The waters become even more murky if a party owns a business. For business owners, gross income is determined by taking the gross receipts of the business and then deducting “only those expenses necessary to allow the business to operate at a reasonable level.” 78B-12-203(4).
Income can also be imputed to a party to determine child support and alimony amounts, but only after a judge holds a hearing on the matter and makes findings of fact that would justify the imputed income. Imputed income is determined by the party’s “employment potential and probable earnings as derived from employment opportunities, work history, occupation qualifications, and prevailing earnings for persons of similar backgrounds in the community, or the median earning for persons in the same occupation in the same geographical area as found in the statistics maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Utah Code 78B-12-203(7)(b).
Many times one spouse has foregone a career to stay at home and raise the children. In such cases the party may not have any recent work history. Even then, the court has to impute at least minimum wage to that party unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Income is often times a hotly contested issue in divorce cases because future support payments are based on the income of the parties. If you have more questions about determining income in divorces in Utah, call our divorce lawyers at 801.413.1753.