Cousin v. Cousin (North Carolina 2021)
A court can use a parent’s prior income to calculate gross monthly income but findings must support the decision. This case came before the district court in early 2018. During the trial, the father testified as to his income so far 2018. Evidence showed his income for 2016 and 2017 and bonuses received during both years. The father testified he had yet to receive a bonus in 2018 and didn’t know if he would. To calculate the father’s income for child support, the district court used his 2017 income and added in an amount to cover a bonus. This meant the parties’ combined adjusted gross income was above the upper limit for the child support guidelines. The court awarded support using a non-guideline determination. The father appealed. The appellate court reversed and remanded the child support provision. A court can use prior years’ earning to calculate income but it must make findings as to why it did so. The decree lacked these findings. The decree also contained no findings to indicate father’s testimony about his current income was unreliable. The appellate court reversed for further findings.