If you are paying spousal maintenance or child support following a divorce, you may wonder what happens if you lose your job. You may be surprised that you could be obligated to pay whatever you were paying while employed, so it is important to discuss your circumstances with an attorney before you assume anything.
There are cases where the court will base support payments on imputed income – higher income than the paying spouse is actually earning. Imputed income may be used in situations such as when a supporting parent consciously earns less than they could to avoid or reduce child support payments or when it is difficult to distinguish what income is derived from a business the paying spouse owns.
Voluntary underemployment or unemployment typically does not relieve the obligation to pay child support. A court may impute income for underemployment where a spouse could be earning more based generally on factors such as their vocational training skills or work experience. If a paying spouse is working part time, but could be more gainfully employed, a court may order support payments based on a higher (or potential) income.
Imputed income will also factor into voluntary unemployment. Parents who quit their job or intentionally get fired, sometimes just to get back at their ex-spouse or in protest to paying child support, will nevertheless be on the hook for child support as if they were still holding down a job with similar income. If there is no valid reason such as a medical concern stopping a payor from getting another job, the child support obligation will likely continue.
When it comes to business owners, imputed income can figure into instances where a spouse has control of the business and can manipulate the amount of income he or she receives as compared to what they reinvest in the business. Courts can see through this and may use imputed income depending on the circumstances so that child support reflects the amount of money the parent actually earns.
If you pay child or spousal support and have a change in financial circumstances and need more information regarding the post divorce modification of a spousal support or child support order, contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney for help. If you are the recipient of child support or spousal maintenance and the paying spouse has stopped or reduced payments due to an employment issue or other reason, it is important to discuss your situation with an attorney who can advise you of your rights. Contact the Lake county Illinois family law offices of Schlesinger & Strauss LLC for immediate assistance.