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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Brooklyn Child Support Modification Requests, Voluntary Job Loss and Imputing Income

Child support modifications in Brooklyn are warranted for all sorts of reasons, including a significant change in circumstances, the passage of three years or more since the last order or the paying parent's income fluctuation by 15 percent or more. 

The court will weigh these requests carefully, but none of the above factors is a guarantee that anything will change. A good example of this would be that the court finds a paying parent's downward income fluctuation was due to a voluntary job loss, and therefore rules that support will be based not on actual income, but rather by imputing income. This means the court will base your income for child support purposes on what a person earned in the past or what he or she is capable of earning, based on factors ranging from education to employment opportunities. 

This is essentially what happened in the case of Schwalk v. Schwalk, reviewed by the Supreme Court of North Dakota. A district court denied a father's request to modify his child support, which had recently been increased from $210 monthly to $930 monthly. He attempted to have it lowered to $350, but the court rejected his reasoning, and the higher courts affirmed this stance. 

According to court records, the mother and father had divorced in 2004 and had a single child together. Initially, the father was only ordered to pay $200 monthly to the mother, who was awarded primary residential responsibility for the child. 

Several years later, the mother learned that her ex's income had increased substantially, and he was earning about $92,000 annually, with a net monthly income of about $5,700. It was on these grounds that the court agreed to increase support payments to $930 monthly. 

Two years after that, the father requested modification of child support down to $350, holding that he was no longer employed by the same company that was previously used to calculate his support obligation. Further, he had moved out-of-state to live with his new wife, and his monthly income had fallen to about $2,500. He asked the court to also consider his expenses to return to the state periodically to exercise parenting time with his child. 

There was no question that his income had dropped. However, the court determined that the father had voluntarily changed his employment. As such, his motion was denied. He had to keep paying the $930 a month. 

This case illustrates why if you are responsible for paying child support, it is usually not a good idea to quit a job without careful consideration. There is a strong likelihood you will be asked by the court to justify your change of circumstance. 

Of course, there may be perfectly legitimate reasons for leaving a certain place of employment or even moving out-of-state. But if you do so expecting to take a hit on salary, be prepared to explain that to the family court judge. 

The court will sometimes grant requests for downward modification of child support payments when a parent can show a change in circumstances that is both unanticipated and unreasonable. For example, if a father loses his job unexpectedly and through no fault of his own and sends out dozens of resumes and is still unable to find work, this might qualify for circumstances under which support obligations can be reduced. However, upon his finding employment, another modification hearing could be requested. 

If you are considering requesting a child support modification in Brooklyn, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Schwalk v. ShwalkJanuary 2014, North Dakota Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

New York Child Support Income Verification Can be Complex Matter, Jan. 25, 2014, Brooklyn Child Support Lawyer Blog

 


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