One of the realities for clients that are involved in child support or spousal support is that the parties’ income fluctuates during the course of the order. A support is always modifiable and either party can petition the court to have the order modified at any time. So, for example, if you are paying support, and if your income has decreased as a result of a layoff, reduced work hours, etc., a reduction of your Support Order may be justified.
However, if a payor experiences what the court calls a “voluntary reduction of income,” he or she is not eligible to have the support order reduced regardless of whether or not he or she has any income coming in. A voluntary reduction of income occurs when a payor is fired for cause, quits voluntarily, or willfully takes a lower-paying job. The courts have this provision in place because it will not reward a parent for making less money when they are capable of making more and providing a larger amount of support to the child. This provision also prevents a parent from quitting out of spite in an effort to cut off support payments.
If a payor experiences a voluntary reduction of income and seeks a modification the court will continue to assign him or her an income based on his or her previous employment. Thus, the support order will not be reduced and the obligor will have to continue to pay the same amount regardless of whether any money is actually coming in or not. This opens the obligor up to contempt filings by the court if he or she fails to pay regularly.
Regardless of whether you pay or receive child support, if you have experienced a decrease in your income, you should speak with a family law attorney to discuss and advise you as to whether a modification would be appropriate in your case.