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Posts tagged "earning capacity"

Earning Capacity

In a support matter, the incomes of the parties will be used to calculate an appropriate award based on the support guidelines applicable throughout the Commonwealth. At the initial appearance for a support matter, both parties are asked to bring in proof of their income in the form of W-2s, tax returns, pay stubs, or other documentation of income received. If a party is unemployed or underemployed, the rules specify that an earning capacity may be imputed. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-2(d)(4) explains the first step is a finding that a party willfully failed to obtain or maintain appropriate employment. Involuntary reductions in income (e.g. lay-offs or unemployment due to illness or disability) generally do not trigger earning capacity arguments.

Earning Capacity

In a support matter, the incomes of the parties will be used to calculate an appropriate award based on the support guidelines applicable throughout the Commonwealth. At the initial appearance for a support matter, both parties are asked to bring in proof of their income in the form of W-2s, tax returns, pay stubs, or other documentation of income received. If a party is unemployed or underemployed, the courts may consider their earning capacity. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-2(d)(4) discusses earning capacity. First, the rule indicates there should be a determination that a party willfully failed to obtain or maintain appropriate employment. Involuntary reductions income (e.g. lay-offs or unemployment due to illness or disability) generally do not trigger an earning capacity analysis.

Earning Capacity in a Divorce or Support Action

If you are getting a divorce and there are child or spousal support issues involved in your case, the Court can hold you to an earning capacity if you are not working or you are not fully employed. What this means is that Court can assess you with a potential income based on your work history, education, skills, or even possible earnings. For example, if you work 15 hours a week and earn $ 20 an hour, there is a good chance the Court can impute earnings of 40 hours a week at $ 20 and hour on you when they determine support. This does not mean you have to work 40 hours but it means that income will be used to determine how much support you will receive from the father of your spouse.

Self-Employed Parties and Support

It is important to take a very close look at the finances of a self-employed party in a support case. Generally, actual earnings will be utilized to accurately measure the income available for support and ability to pay. However, in a few circumstances, including at times the case of a self-employed party, earning capacity may be used instead to effectuate economic justice. For example, a self-employed party may reduce the salary they pay themselves in order to try to reduce the support obligation. Additionally, many self-employed parties claim a lot of deductions on their tax returns before reporting their net income. A portion of these deductions may be added back when the court is trying to determine a more accurate figure for income. 

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