It is true that child support orders are based off of a certain percentage of the net income of the parent with the less parenting time. However, that calculation does not apply in situations where the payor either quit his or her job, was fired for cause, or left a higher paying job for a lower paying job. In these situations, a judge can determine that you had the ability to continue in the higher paying job and will not punish the other parent for the payor’s financial decisions. However, if the payor is laid off as part of a corporate downsizing scheme, the judge may modify the payor’s child support amount.
In In re the Marriage of Chenoweth,134 Ill. App. 3d 1015 (5th Dist. 1985), the father’s unemployment resulted from a unilateral decision to quit his job. Although the trial court had modified the child support Order, the Appellate Court reversed that decision stating that the trial court erred in modifying the support Order when the father had voluntarily resigned from his position. The Court further stated that any reduction in a payor’s net income must be in good faith.
The courts have ruled similarly in cases where the payor voluntarily changes careers. In In re the Marriage of Kern, 245 Ill. App. 3d 575 (4th Dist. 1993), the Court denied a request to modify the child support order where the father had left his employment as a mechanic to attempt making a living farming.
As divorce lawyers, I have argued plenty of times that my client’s income is lower since the parties’ filed for divorce. Usually, a judge will give me a skeptical eye as it seems every payor goes to Court with the same story. For W-2 earners, income should be easy to determine. For non-W-2 earners, simply declaring a much lower income on your taxes may not be enough. If your business is going through a rough patch finanically, make sure that you have separate tax returns for your business and can monitor your business expenses with receipts. Otherwise, a judge will likely use the income taxes from the last filing year.
As such, do not quit your job thinking that it will get you out of child support as it likely will not, and do not voluntarily reduce your income. A judge will scrutinize closely the circumstances surrounding the reduction in income before the judge will grant a request for a reduction of child support.