Divorce and Willful Underemployment


After a Pasadena divorce, it's important to avoid the perception that you've become willfully underemployed. The term willful underemployment is used when someone is suspected of choosing a job at a lower salary to avoid having to pay the proper amount of child support and/or alimony. It does not refer to someone who is trying to find a higher paying job without success or someone who had to take a lower paying position because of physical limitations that made his or her previous employment unsuitable. It may or may not refer to someone who has quit their job or reduced their work hours to further their education, depending upon the long term viability of their previous employment.

The family court system frowns on willful underemployment. If you are found to be choosing to work at a job that is far below your earnings potential, your alimony and/or child support payments can be based on imputed income. Imputed income is an estimate of what you'd be expected to earn, given your past work history, skills, and education. If your employment change happens during your divorce, imputed income would be based on your earnings as reported during your last two or three years of federal tax returns.

If you've remarried, your spouse's income isn't used to calculate your child support and/or alimony payments. However, this doesn't mean you can quit your job, live on your spouse's salary, and not owe any child support and/or alimony. This would be considered willful underemployment and you'd likely have imputed income used to determine your obligations.

If you're the former spouse of someone who you suspect is willfully underemployed, you can fight a reduction in child support and/or alimony payments by proving that a change in support would negatively affect your finances and that your ex has both the means and the ability to obtain a higher paying job. If you think your ex is not reporting all of his or her income, you can also cite evidence that shows his or her lifestyle is not consistent with the amount of income that is being claimed.

How Can We Help?

Email us at info@PasadenaLawOffice.com or call our office at (626) 683-8113 if you have questions about how Pasadena divorce law applies to child support and/or spousal support payments.