Is Your Spouse or Former Spouse Willfully Under or Unemployed?
The biggest factor that determines the amount of money that is awarded as spousal or child is the amount of money earned by the party who is obligated to pay. One dirty trick some try to game the system with is willful unemployment or underemployment. The logic is that since they won’t be earning as much, their support order will be reduced.
Although the support order may be reduced, more often this scheme can backfire through a legal mechanism known as “imputed income.” Consider the case of a man who has held a steady job with a steady annual income of 100k for the past years while he was married. In the midst of his divorce, he decides to quit his job and travel, and reports that he has no current income. The judge may look at this situation and decide since this man has the proven ability to earn 100k per year and decided to quit his job on his own volition, the support order will be calculated as if he was actually still earning 100k per year!
The main considerations that determine whether actual income will be disregarded in favor of imputed income are the ability and opportunity that the person has to earn income. A person who can prove that their job loss was an involuntary layoff (i.e. not fired due to misbehavior) and that they are conducting a substantial effort to secure another job can avoid being ordered to pay a support order based on imputed income.
Things get more complicated when the party is not an employee, but is self-employed. Consider what happens when a man who works as an independent contractor or runs a small business gets divorced. Since self-employed people typically set their own hours and have a higher degree of control over how much money they make, it is easy for someone in this position to intentionally (or perhaps subconsciously) make changes that reduce the amount of income that they are earning. It’s also true that businesses fluctuate and markets change, and the self-employed spouse may experience a reduction in income despite their best efforts.Whether you are due to receive or pay a support order, it’s very important to be represented by excellent legal counsel who can help ensure a fair outcome that does not place undue burden on you.
Our firm is prepared and experienced to help people who feel that their spouse is willfully under or unemployed.
Do you have a divorce or family law question?
Call our office today. John A. Bledsoe is Orange County’s premier divorce attorney and a certified family law specialist. Our firm offers a confidential initial case evaluation. Call (949) 363-5551 to learn more.
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