Most people get paid for employment by check, and their salary tends to be fixed to either an hourly wage or an annual salary. But quite a few workers get paid principally in cash, notably construction and landscaping workers, and to a degree, workers who get tips, like restaurant servers or hair stylists. Because cash can be hard to track, workers who rely in whole or in part on cash may report less income than they receive.
How does any underreporting of income impact child support?
At the calculation of support stage, the worker will attempt to keep income as low as possible. To counteract the amount reported by that worker will be challenging because the other parent will not have full access (usually) to all of the jobs that worker did. Because the employer may also be keeping payment “off book,” the employer will not have an incentive to verify every dollar given to the worker. In this situation, the court will look at other sources – for example, purchases made over a period of time, bank records, and other financial statements to find a discrepancy between claimed income and lifestyle. Also, the other parent may choose to hire a vocational expert to testify as to the typical earnings of cash laborers, or the average tips received by a server or stylist.
Once the court arrives at an actual child support amount the cash worker owes, the next issue will be how the parent will collect. Typically, a court can enter a garnishment order with the employer (as can the child support enforcement division). But when a worker gets paid job to job in cash, the employer distinction will not really help.
At this point, the parent owed support is at a severe disadvantage but still has a legal obligation to enforce. If the parent receives less than owed, the parent can pursue contempt proceedings through the court or through the Division of Child Support Enforcement. The court could find that the cash worker has not paid and must pay, shifting the burden to the cash worker to show an inability to pay, which now becomes very hard because the lack of records now hurts the cash worker in this case. Unfortunately, though, having a parent owed support to rely so heavily on child support enforcement or contempt is not the easiest path toward consistent support. However, the ultimate threat of jail time for not paying usually motivates parents to pay what they owe.
If you have questions about child support and cash workers, contact us – we can help.