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Case Law: Reduced Earning Ability Due to Incarceration

In the past it has been common to impute minimum wage to an incarcerated NCP when calculating a child support obligation. In State Ex. Rel. Dept. of Human Services v. Baggett, the court applied the “clean hands” doctrine and found that because the NCP committed a criminal act that led to incarceration he could not invoke the equitable power of the court. The court held it was not error to impute minimum wage to the incarcerated NCP based upon the facts of the case.

However, in a more recent case, Garcia v. Garcia, the court pointed out that for the “clean hands” doctrine to apply, the unlawful act must relate to the matter in which the person is seeking relief. In Garcia the NCP’s conduct, job loss, was unrelated to the motion to modify in the divorce decree. The court held that if an NCP’s job loss was not engineered to avoid child support obligations, the court may use actual income. Therefore, CSS uses actual income, even if it is $0.