Potential Income Used for Calculating Child Support

Sometimes potential clients for issues of alimony or child support ask about what would happen if their spouse quit their job or was fired or laid off and their income dramatically changed. Typically, the other spouse threatens you by saying if you file for child support or alimony I will just quit my job and you won’t get any money from me.  Sometimes, the threat may be to just quit working the consistent overtime hours that are always available to significantly reduce the payor spouse’s income.

Last year I represented a client whose husband of 30 years abruptly left the home, quit his job that paid over $100,000 per year, and moved out of state in an effort to avoid having to pay his wife alimony.  She came in very concerned that she would not be provided for financially.  Here’s what we discussed:

Potential Income Used in Calculation of Child Support

The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines set out the following as it relates to potential income:

“If the court finds that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, it should calculate child support based on a determination of potential income which would otherwise ordinarily be available to the parent.”

“In order to impute income to a parent who is unemployed or underemployed, the court should determine the employment potential and probable earnings level of the parent based on that parent’s recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing job opportunities and earning levels in the community.”

This means that a party who the Court finds has greater potential income than they are showing at that time due to intentionally quitting his/her job (or somehow have their income reported as much lower than normal) during the time that a child support matter is ongoing the Court may calculate the child support as if the payor spouse was still making the larger amount of money.

Potential Income Used For Calculation of Alimony

When a Court is determining whether to award alimony to a spouse in South Carolina, they refer to the statute that sets out the factors for the court to consider.  After weighing all of the factors, the court will have a lot of discretion in determining the amount of alimony to award. Among the 13 factors outlined in SC Code §20-3-130(c), sub-paragraph 4 states that the Court must consider, “the employment history and earning potential of each spouse”.

So, if your spouse threatens to quit his/her job to reduce the amount of alimony he/she would otherwise have to pay, you can be sure the Court will consider that in the alimony determination.

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