Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Can Someone Quit His or Her Job to Avoid Paying Child Support?

Has your ex told you that he or she will quit his or her current job to reduce or eliminate child support payments?   Are you considering finding a lower-paying job, working less or getting laid-off so that you won’t have to pay as much child support?  It is a very bad idea for anyone to quit his or her current job for a lower paying position with the goal of reducing child support payments.  The short answer is that the payor will probably end up paying the same amount as when he or she had the higher income job.
In Alberta (and most jurisdictions in Canada) when there is a court order stating the amount of child support payable, the payor is legally required to pay the amount on the order until the court varies the amount in the order.  If the payor brings an application before the court to reduce the child support that is payable, the judge will definitely ask why he or she has changed jobs and is now making less money.  When a court believes that someone is trying to be underemployed (either in position, hours or pay) according to a person’s qualifications, abilities and past employment, then it is normal for a court to impute, or deem, income to that person. 
For example, let’s say that Kerry and Alex had two children during their relationship and then separated.  The children now live with Alex through the week and Kerry has parenting time every weekend.  After their separation, Alex brought a child support application to the Alberta Provincial Court and got an Child Support Order that stated that Kerry had to pay $1700 per month in regular child support payments.  After one year, Kerry decided that this was too much money to pay in child support, so Kerry switched jobs from being a full-time neurosurgeon to become a part-time coffee shop attendant.   According to Kerry’s calculations, the new child support payable based on the part-time coffee shop attendant job would reduce the child support payable to only $200 per month.  Kerry then went back to the Alberta Provincial Court with an application to vary the current Child Support Order.  The Judge declined to reduce Kerry’s payments because Kerry had the ability to continue to work as a full-time neurosurgeon.   In making the decision, the Judge declared that Kerry would be deemed to have the same income as when Kerry was working as a neurosurgeon, and as such, the payments were maintained at the same amount, even though Kerry was making far less money.
If someone loses his or her job due to circumstances beyond his or her control, or, has to switch jobs for a legitimate reason, then child support might be varied to reflect the new income level.  Nonetheless, it is up to the person whose income has reduced to prove that he or she has made good-faith efforts to find a job equivalent to the previous position. 
The laws of child support in Alberta, and in Canada, are designed to ensure that children have adequate financial resources to preserve their well-being after their parents have separated.  Thus, courts do not look favourably upon parents who try to avoid paying the appropriate child support amount.
If you would like to calculate child support payments based on income, you can go to this website:   Please note that this is a simplified calculation tool only.   If you have a shared custody arrangement, you will need to do additional calculations.  Watch for a future blog post on calculating child support when there is a shared custody arrangement or when children live with each parent at least 40% of the time.

For even more family law tips & information, listen to Lisa's Radio Program, “Family Law Answers for Real Life” on demand at:

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