Can I Be Forced to Switch Jobs Due to Child Support?

by Heather Frances Google

If you have children, your divorce decree likely includes an order to pay a specific amount of child support. Since child support amounts are based on your current income, the court won’t order you to change jobs because of your child support obligations. However, you cannot take a lower-paying job in an attempt to lower your payments.

Child Support Calculations

Child support laws and calculation formulas vary by state, but they are usually based on a percentage of the parents’ combined income. Generally, the divorce court will assess your income, and that of the other parent, at the time of the divorce. Some states include additional factors, such as how many children you have, how much time you spend with your child and child care expenses.

Sources of Income

State law also defines income. It may include wages, government benefit checks, pensions or other periodic payments. For example, Massachusetts includes rental income, prizes or awards, bonuses, and money received from the earned income tax credit. Colorado does not specifically include the earned income tax credit in the definition of income, but the statutory list is not all-inclusive, so the court can include the tax credit as income at its discretion.

Changing Jobs

A court cannot order you to change jobs during your divorce so you can earn more money to pay child support. However, if you recently switched to a lower-paying job in comparison to the ones you’ve held throughout your marriage, the court can impute income to you. Imputed income is money you don’t actually earn, but the court calculates child support payments as if you did earn it. Typically, the court will base the amount of imputed income on your previous earnings or likely earning potential.

Enforcement

If you take a lower-paying job after your divorce to avoid paying child support, the court still can’t force you to change jobs, but it can exercise other enforcement measures if you fall behind in your support because you now make less money. For example, the court can order your wages garnished or your driver’s license revoked if you fail to pay your support as ordered. However, if you lose your job through no fault of your own, the court may reduce the amount you have to pay.