Columbus Divorce Lawyer Explains Why “I Will Quit My Job” May Be an Empty Threat When Used to Avoid Child Support
Our Columbus divorce lawyer often hears from parents involved in a divorce involving children or a paternity action where the other parent has threatened to quit working to avoid child support. Although this is usually a hollow and ill-advised threat, we see many custodial parents who panic in the face of such a threat. These parents would not be able to make ends meet without a financial contribution from the other parent. While it is advisable to seek legal representation if the other parent indicates that he or she is planning to change jobs or quit work to avoid child support, our experienced Columbus family law attorneys frequently ask the court to “impute” income to the other parent to negate such shenanigans.
Ohio uses a guideline child support formula that calculates support for children of a relationship on a formula that weighs the income of each parent as a primary consideration. Given the important role of the income of a paying parent in the determination of child support, some parents decide to “game” the system by taking a job with lower pay, quitting work entirely, or reducing their hours. If the other parent in your divorce or paternity case attempts any of these tactics, you should seek prompt legal advice. An Ohio divorce lawyer can present evidence to persuade the judge that the other parent’s unemployment or underemployment is voluntary. When a parent voluntarily manipulates his or her work hours, pay, or employment status to reduce a child support obligation, the court can force the offending parent to pay child support based on the income that the parent should be earning.
A judge often will “impute” income to the unemployed or underemployed parent, which essentially means that the calculation of the paying parent’s income will be based on what he should be earning based on training, education, experience, and employment history. A parent who has been working as an attorney for the last seven years, for example, might decide to quit and take a job as a grocery clerk before a child support hearing. The paying parent who has made this job change might well be obligated to pay child support based on his salary as an attorney rather than a grocery clerk. Factors that Ohio judges consider when determining the amount of income to impute will include:
- Parent’s education
- Special training and skills
- Previous work experience
- Age and special needs of the child
- Employment market in the area
- Any mental or physical disabilities of the parent
- Wage/Salary levels in the area
- Evidence parent can earn the proposed imputed income
- Decreased earning ability because of a felony conviction
- Increased earning ability because of experience
- Other applicable factors
When a court considers the issue of imputing income to the paying spouse, the process involves an evaluation of whether the change in employment is voluntary or involuntary. If the unemployment or underemployment (i.e. earning below capacity) is the product of a voluntary act or decision by the parent, the court will be inclined to impute income based on earning ability and history rather than actual income. While downsizing, an emotional or physical disability, or a loss of commission because of changed market conditions are obvious examples of involuntary loss of income, the intentional violation of a work rule that leads to the parent’s firing might be deemed voluntary. If the change in employment or income is voluntary, the judge often will impute income to the paying spouse.
If you have questions about divorce, child custody, or child support, we welcome the opportunity to talk to you and answer your questions. We invite you to call Dawes Legal, LLC at 614-733-9999 or submit an inquiry form through this website to schedule your initial consultation.