In matters of child support, proof of a parent’s income is extremely important. This is because the court will base their calculation of child support on the current income of each parent. There are instances where the court finds proof of a parent intentionally avoiding work (voluntary unemployment) or avoiding earning what they are capable of earning (voluntary underemployment). If your co-parent is doing either of these, it is important that you consult an experienced Maryland family law attorney to help you obtain a court order that defines child support at a fair amount.
If the court finds that a parent engaged in voluntary unemployment or underemployment, the court is allowed by the law to calculate child support based not on the parents’ actual incomes, but based on the imputed income of the parent if he or she did not engage in voluntary unemployment or underemployment and the actual income of the other parent. For instance, Mark is a prominent surgeon earning $380,000 a year and Miriam who, during the divorce, voluntarily resigned or gave up her burgeoning dental practice at $180,000 a year to become a media consultant, earning around $65,000. In this case, the court will base their child support calculation using Mark’s actual income of $380,000 and Miriam’s supposed or imputed income of $180,000 if she had continued her practice, rather than base calculations using Miriam’s actual income of $65,000.
However, there are cases when the low peak of a parent’s income capacity is out of their control. If your spouse is experiencing a downtime in their earning capacity during the time of your divorce, it does not follow that the court will take it into consideration and not base child support calculation on imputed income. Consider Herbert and Farrah’s case. They were married for ten years before they got divorced in 2015. They had five children together. Herbert was a hedge-fund manager and financial planner, making $230,000 a year with the highest earning rate of $375,000. Unfortunately, he was fired in 2017. If it were Herbert’s fault that he got fired, he would be liable for voluntary unemployment and imputed income.
Soon after being fired, Herbert found employment as a sales manager, earning $75,000 per year. The court ruled that Herbert is not liable for voluntary underemployment. However, shortly after the judge gave his ruling with child support based on Herbert’s actual income of $75,000 annually, Herbert found a new job. He found a job in the financial industry in which he earned a lot more than the $75,000 he was earning as a sales manager and on which the child support calculation was based. Having returned back to the compensation rate of his previous job as a hedge-fund manager, this allowed for a recalculation of child support.
A change in financial status that happens so close or so soon after finalization of divorce and child support gives you the chance to request the judge to reopen the case. This allows you to provide new evidence of your ex-spouse’s current, higher earnings. With new evidence coming to light, the corrected or revised amount of child support would be more helpful.
There are many complex legal and factual issues with child custody and support that require the experience and knowledge of a skilled lawyer. Schedule your consultation with one of our highly-qualified divorce attorneys today so we can guide your through the process.