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Child Support and Attribution of Income

I hear this statement a lot (more out of frustration than anything else):  “You can’t get blood from a stone. I will just quit my job and she won’t get any support!”   It sounds like the perfect move in theory.   Too bad that it is not true!  Child support and attribution of income are closely linked when considering a modification to the court order.

As you know, child support is calculated under the child support guidelines using the gross income of the parties (and figuring in child care, medical insurance, etc.).  If your income changes, and you no longer have the same gross income, you can ask the Court for modification of the child support order.

Many of us have been there.  A lay off.  A position eliminated.  Company closes.  There are many situations where, due to nothing that we have done, and through no fault of our own, our occupation suddenly changes and income decreases.  In this scenario, you may be entitled to modification, temporary or permanent, due to the material change in circumstances.  See more about modification here (link to modification page).

On the other hand, if you quit your job voluntarily, or you voluntarily change your position to a job that earns you a markedly decrease income, the other party can argue that the Court should attribute income to you when calculating the child support under the Guidelines.  By attributing the income, the Court uses your previous income, or some income between that which you now earn and that which you formerly earned, within the child support guidelines to award the child support.  In effect, the Court basically “pretends” that you earn that much and calculates the support as if you do.

Here’s a real life scenario that I worked on in the past:  Husband and wife have very contentious divorce.  Husband is ordered to pay a large support award based on his very handsome income.  Husband meets millionaire.  Husband quits his job, moves to the Midwest and gets a job at a convenience store.  Husband then moves for modification. The result?  Husband continued to pay that very large award of support based on his former very handsome income.  Why?  Voluntary decrease of support cannot warrant modification of child support.

The proof is in the pudding.  Discuss your case with an attorney to determine, with respect to this article, which income figures are proper to use in the calculation of support. It could mean a world of difference in the award (or lack thereof!)

You can read more about general child support information here.

If you need to discuss this, or any, child support issue, please contact me here.

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Certain questions become very common in the practice of divorce and parenting.  Particularly with the commonality of changing jobs more...

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