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

By Heather Frances J.D.

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.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

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.


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.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Can You Go to Jail for Not Making Child Support Payments?


Related articles

Can Child Support Payments Be Garnished From an Unemployment Check?

Parents are legally obligated to provide financially for their children, so courts establish child support orders as part of divorce decrees. A noncustodial parent’s obligation to pay child support does not stop because he’s unemployed, and the custodial parent or a state agency can still pursue enforcement of a child support order.

How a Non-Custodial Parent Can Reduce Child Support Payments

Child support is money paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, and may be paid either directly, through wage deductions or through a state agency. Support is considered a right of the child and child support awards aren't arbitrary. The federal government requires that each state use child support formulas that take into account parental income, the child's needs and other factors. Thus you can't reduce your payments just because you feel they're unfair or don't want to give money to your ex. However, if you can demonstrate a valid reason for a payment reduction, such as reduced income, you might be able to get payments reduced.

Can I Keep My Alimony Payments if I Live on SSI in California?

California courts can award alimony, or spousal support, to either spouse during a divorce. Once it’s awarded, it cannot be taken away just because you receive government benefit payments. Whether you receive alimony at all depends in part on your income so the court may consider your SSI benefit payments before awarding alimony. However, if your alimony payments increase your income too much, you might become ineligible for government benefits.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Kentucky Child Support: Frequently Asked Questions

As Kentucky parents, when you and your spouse divorce, the court sets a child support amount for the noncustodial ...

Can Child Support Be Deducted From Two Jobs?

Parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children, even when the parents divorce. Your ...

Alabama Laws on Child Support & the Restart of Child Support

Child support in Alabama is usually determined in a straightforward manner. As in many other states, Alabama uses the ...

Alabama's State Laws on Child Support Payments

Alabama law requires a court order to establish child support payments. Depending on the facts of your case and whether ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED