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What if a parent does not report all of their income?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed November 2021

Parents do not always report all their income on the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet or Financial Statement.

  • They might not know what counts as income;
  • They might think they do not need to report some payments they get.
  • The income might not be documented. Getting paid “under the table” or “off the books” is undocumented income. If you do not get a 1099 or W-2 with the income, it may be undocumented.

Parents might not report certain kinds of payments they get like:

  • Reimbursements of their expenses,
  • In-kind payments or benefits, like having their rent paid for them,
  • Using business property for their personal benefit, or
  • Personal expenses paid by their employer or their own business

The judge can count these payments as income if they are

  • significant, and
  • reduce the parent’s personal living expenses.

If it looks like a parent’s income and expenses do not match, the judge can look at a parent’s lifestyle to figure out what their income really is.

Judges look at evidence of a parent’s

  • ownership and maintenance of assets, like an apartment building or restaurant,
  • personal expenses, and
  • spending patterns.

If the judge decides a parent has unreported or undocumented income, the judge can estimate how much income the parent has. Estimating the unreported or undocumented income and adding it to a parent’s income is called “imputing” income.

If the judge decides to impute income, they use the imputed income in the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

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