Income Can be Imputed Even if Last Job was 19 Years Ago

December 28, 2018

Hartvigsen v. Hartvigsen

This is an appeal from a district court’s award of alimony in the aftermath of a contentious divorce. Wife contends that the court abused its discretion when it imputed income to her.

Hartvigsen v. Hartvigsen, 2018 UT App 238 (Filed December 28, 2018)

Wife argued that the district court’s alimony award was insufficient because the court exceeded its discretion by imputing income to her as a practicing attorney because she had not worked as an attorney for nearly 19 years and because there was no competent evidence that a person with her experience could obtain employment as an attorney.  However, in calculating an alimony award, a court must consider, among other things, the recipient’s ability to produce income. See Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-5(8)(a)(ii) (2010). When an individual “has no recent work history or [his or her] occupation is unknown, income shall be imputed at least at the federal minimum wage for a 40–hour work week.” See id. § 78B12-203(7)(c) (2012). The court may impute greater income upon entering “specific findings of fact as to the evidentiary basis for the imputation . . . Such imputation shall be based upon 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. Testimony at trial included extensive evidence related to the Wife’s education and background including a Stanford law degree and past employment. A vocational expert also testified about the lawyer job openings in Utah and potential entry level wages.  The court found that Wife’s recent efforts to obtain employment were inadequate, that the imputation was reasonable at $50,000 per year, and that only a potential and probable earnings standard was necessary for an imputation—as opposed to a specific job placement with a specific employer.

Click HERE to read entire case.

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