Judge Imputes Income to Husband After Finding that He Voluntarily Chose to Earn Less Money In Order to Avoid His Financial Obligations

Oftentimes a divorced party will get “cold feet” and decide years later that he/she no longer wants to continue paying their ex-spouse either maintenance or settlement proceeds. Parties will often find ways to either modify or terminate their obligation.

In a recent Cook County case, however, the Husband decided to take matters into his own hand. Per the parties Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, the Husband had to pay Wife 50% of this net earnings from the two businesses The Husband ceased operating two of his businesses that grossed almost half a million net a year. The Husband instead decided to become a student in pastoral studies earning significantly less than he used to. Maintenance had been reserved pursuant to the Judgment.

The Wife filed a Petition for Maintenance alleging that Wife was in need of maintenance now that Husband could no longer provide 50% of the income from his now-defunct businesses. The Judge found that the Husband had voluntarily closed down his businesses in order to stop paying Wife her 50% as previously ordered. The Judge found that the Wife was now a candidate for maintenance and applied the new maintenance guidelines which became effective January 1, 2015. The Judge imputed 50% of what Husband earned without counting the 50% he paid to Wife. Furthermore, the Judge found it appropriate to deviate upward given the Wife’s standard of living while Husband worked, and set the maintenance amount at $6,250 per month.

It is unclear what evidence exactly the Judge heard that led him to determine that the Husband had in fact voluntarily changed jobs in order to avoid his financial obligation. Did he send an email to his ex-wife informing her of his desire to stop paying her the money? Or is the simple fact that he now earns significantly less evidence of bad faith? Will the payor always be placed in a position where he must earn just as much if not more or else its considered bad faith? The transcript is not clear. However, this Judge clearly did not give the Husband any bonus points for his new-found vocation in religion. The maintenance order would now mean that Husband must find a way to pay that amount presumably by restarting his businesses or else face contempt petitions.

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