Divorce can bring out the worst in people. Sadly, some divorced spouses take out their feelings about their ex on their children.

One strategy for doing this is something called “voluntary impoverishment.” This refers to when people earn less than they’re capable of earning or, perhaps more commonly, hide income to avoid paying the child support they’ve been ordered or agreed to pay. State child support enforcement agencies like Rhode Island’s Office of Child Support Services take the failure by parents to pay child support very seriously.

Hiding income is easier than ever in the current “gig” economy. It’s more difficult for enforcement agencies to track the income of people who work as freelancers or who make money driving for Uber or delivering groceries and restaurant orders than it is people who are employees of a company.

Some people go so far as to even hide their income from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to avoid paying child support. The IRS, of course, also frowns on this deception. Sometimes people get paid in cash or by check and not report all of their income to their ex or the IRS.

There are ways of determining whether a person is hiding income. For example, if someone has gotten a loan for a boat or a car or even a credit card, that person likely listed his or her true income and its sources on the application.

Enforcement agencies and courts can also look at a person’s employment and salary history as well as factors like education and training. If someone has suddenly taken a lower-salary job than he or she had in the past or is reasonably able to get, that person may be guilty of voluntary impoverishment.

If you believe that your co-parent is hiding income or deliberately keeping his or her income low (perhaps by living with family or friends and/or by receiving financial help from them), it’s wise to consult with a Rhode Island family law attorney. He or she can help you seek the support to which your children are entitled.

Source: LiveAbout, “Voluntary Impoverishment: What It Is and What to Do,” Jennifer Wolf, accessed May 29, 2018