Changes to Income
Once a support order is established each party is under a continuing obligation to notify the court of any changes income, employer or employment status. Changes income may impact the support order under the guidelines as the amount of support varies based on the income bracket the parties fall into. A reduction income does not necessarily mean the support order will change. The court can consider the reason behind the reduction income. A voluntary reduction income should have no effect on the support order. Voluntary reductions income are defined as a party taking a lower paying job, quitting or leaving a job, changing occupations or returning to school or being fired for cause. The purpose behind this provision is to make sure parties cannot benefit from attempts to escape or lower their support obligation.
A non-voluntary reduction in support may result in a change to the support award. Non-voluntary reduction income may result from a lay-off, illness, termination or job elimination. These are circumstances which the party has no control over. Even a party who faces a non-voluntary reduction income should take steps to resume employment as soon as possible. Prolonged failure to obtain employment can result in an earning capacity being imputed. Earning capacity is determined based on a party’s age, education, training, and prior work experience and earnings. For a party with limited or no prior work experience, an appropriate earning capacity may be minimum wage full time. For parties who have the skill set and education for a certain type of career, example nurse or IT specialist, the average income of someone in that career in the same geographic region as reflected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics can be useful in determining an appropriate earning capacity.