Courts Discretion to Impute Earnings From a Prior Job

In In re Marriage of Eggers (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 695, the parent's employer fired him for sending sexually inappropriate e-mails to a coworker. (Eggers, supra, 131 Cal.App.4th at p. 698.) Although the parent did not quit his job to pursue other endeavors, the trial court nonetheless relied on?In re Marriage of Padilla (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 1212 and In re Marriage of Ilas (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1630 to impute earnings because the court viewed the termination as more "voluntary" than "involuntary." (Id. at pp. 700-701.) The Court reversed because the parent's misconduct was not equivalent to voluntarily divesting himself of earning capacity required to pay child support. In reaching that conclusion, the Court acknowledged trial courts have the discretion to impute earnings from a prior job when a parent's conduct in quitting the job "reflects a divestiture of resources required for child support obligations." (Id. at p. 700.) The Court also recognized "there may be situations where the supporting parent's conduct warrants considering a claimed involuntary termination of employment as actually voluntary for purposes of determining the parent's earning capacity." (Id. at p. 701.) The Court concluded, however, the parent's conduct in Eggers did not rise to that level. (Ibid.) The Court held the lower court abused its discretion by imputing income to father solely because the father's job termination resulted from his misconduct. (Id. at pp. 698-699.) The court remanded the matter for a factual determination whether the father had the ability and opportunity to obtain similar employment or had available assets to pay the support amounts. (Id. at p. 701.)