Can My Ex Quit His Job So He Doesn't Have to Pay Child Support?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Can My Ex Quit His Job So He Doesn't Have to Pay Child Support?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

The short answer to whether your ex can quit their job to avoid paying child support is no. There are, however, situations where your ex might lawfully be able to have their child support obligation reduced.

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Intentional vs. Unintentional Reduction in Income

Child support amounts are determined by state guidelines based on the number of children and income of each parent. Courts rarely deviate from the guidelines. If a parent's income is low, then the child support obligation will also be low. For this reason, some unscrupulous parents try to reduce their child support obligation by intentionally reducing their income. Fortunately, this type of trickery is rarely effective.

All states take a parent's obligation to pay child support very seriously. That support belongs to the child and is important to their growth and development. Courts don't look favorably on parents who intentionally quit or take a low paying job to simply avoid their child support obligation. A parent's request to reduce child support because they voluntarily quit their job will almost always be rejected.

When faced with this scenario, courts will usually impute income to the parent that is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Imputing income means they treat the parent as though they are receiving income (or more income) for purposes of calculating their child support obligations. The outcome is different if the unemployment or underemployment was not by choice such as if the parent was fired, laid off, forced to quit, or is having trouble finding work during an economic recession. In these situations, a court might reduce the parent's child support obligation to meet the parent's ability to pay. However, if the parent regains full and gainful unemployment, you can request that the child support amounts be increased back to the initial amount.

No Automatic Reduction in Child Support Obligations

Your ex's child support obligation is not automatically reduced when their income decreases. If your ex wants to reduce their required monthly payments, they have to submit a request with the court to modify the child support order that was issued during the divorce proceedings. You can oppose the request, and if the reduction was due to the intentional actions of your ex, then you will probably win the argument.

Unfortunately, even if the court doesn't reduce your ex's child support obligation, your ex might just reduce or stop the payments anyway. If they have the money and are just refusing to pay, you can go back to court to enforce the payments. Courts can order wage garnishment and impose other penalties to make sure your ex pays. Keep in mind, however, that it will be harder to collect the money if your ex actually doesn't have the ability to pay. You may not be able to collect all of the back support due until they re-obtain full and gainful employment.

If your ex is threatening to quit a job to avoid child support, you can consult with a family law attorney licensed in your state. They can help you develop a plan to ensure that your child continues to receive the support they need.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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