How Is Determining Income for Unemployed or Underemployed Spouses Accomplished

Divorce requires couples to divide their assets and debts and resolve other matters. One of the decisions that must be made is whether one spouse should receive support. This is commonly called alimony but in Arizona is known as spousal maintenance. Determining income for unemployed or underemployed spouses must first be accomplished.

Spousal maintenance is a payment made by one spouse to the other, during or after a divorce. When calculating the need for maintenance, as well as how much should be paid, the income of both spouses is reviewed. Determining income for unemployed, or underemployed, spouses is part of the process.

Underemployed and Unemployed Spouses in a Divorce

A person may be unemployed due to the loss of a job, or because of a choice not to work. An underemployed spouse is someone who is employed at below the income level that he or she should be getting. For example, a person with an MBA degree has a job as a retail salesperson. This person is likely considered underemployed because he or she should be able to have a higher paying job.

Considerations for Unemployed or Underemployed Spouses

A divorcing spouse may think that if he quits his job he will not have to pay spousal or child support. If a spouse leaves employment and does not find another job, it may be considered an intentional act. The court will review the employment records of both parties. It may be easy to determine that one party became unemployed, or underemployed, at about the same time as the divorce process began. If the Court believes the lack of a current job to be a reasonable decision (i.e. early retirement due to a medical condition or lack of sufficient employment due to a significant gap in time since last employment), then the Court may treat the actual income as the fair income for that party.

Determining Fair Imputed Income of a Spouse

The court may take many issues into consideration when determining income, or potential income. If a spouse does not have an income, the court may assign one based on a number of factors. The income assigned is decided using various factors such as education, age, previous work history, and qualifications, among other things. This means that for purposes of the divorce, the spouse may be considered to have an income, even if he or she doesn’t have a job at the moment. Generally speaking, it will be presumed that each party is capable of earning at least minimum wage.

Using an Employability Expert in Divorce Cases

In complex or difficult cases, a professional may be required to provide input into the employability of one or both of the spouses. The expert may review all the aspects of each person’s employment background, and other aspects, to provide an opinion as to a fair imputed income which will be used in court.

If you are going through a divorce, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Udall Shumway PLC to schedule a consultation.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Determining Income for Unemployed or Underemployed Spouses, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Lindsay A.M. Olivarez at 480.461.5300, log on to, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.