When a couple is going through a divorce, there are a number of issues to be ironed out – primarily around finances and spousal support payments. If there are children involved, then child custody & support are also decided. Divorce can get even more complicated if one of the spouses loses his or her job.
A court will usually determine an amount per month to be paid as spousal support to the lower earning spouse by the higher earning spouse. That amount is based on the higher earner’s salary as compared to the lower earner (or non-earner). Support is usually for a specific number of years. There are limited exceptions to this – as on the case of a marriage that lasted for more than 20 years. In this case, support payments are sometimes permanent.
How Do Courts View Job Loss During Divorce?
Some spouses try to avoid meeting their fair share of financial obligations in a divorce settlement. For example, it is not uncommon for the higher earning spouse to end up with a significantly lower salary during divorce negotiations as compared to beforehand.
When courts decide divorce issues, the aim is to ensure that families (especially children) are able to maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to prior to the divorce. The courts want to see as little disruption to children’s lives as possible.
When deciding support amounts, a judge will examine the circumstances around any change in employment. Significant reductions in salary or job loss during a divorce proceeding are subject to intense scrutinization. The judge will ask why a spouse lost his or her job or changed jobs.
Courts look more favorably on a situation where unemployment is related to a general downsizing as compared to misconduct. Similarly, courts tend to be more lenient if the newly unemployed spouse makes diligent efforts to gain reemployment at a salary comparable to the salary at their prior job.
Determining Earning Potential
Courts can impute a latest salary on record, a recently reduced salary, or earning potential when calculating support payments of an unemployed or underemployed spouse. It is important to realize that the goal of imputing salary is not to punish the higher earner but to facilitate as smooth a transition as possible for all involved.
Anyone newly unemployed who is getting divorced should make a good faith effort to seek reemployment and keep a record of the effort. Record job-search activities including resumes sent, recruiters contacted, interviews held, networking opportunities pursued, and the like.
Anyone underemployed should be able to justify why the lower salary was accepted. Whether or not a judge believes that the lower salary should be the basis for deciding support will depend on the circumstances.
It can be difficult to determine true earning potential. Using a vocational expert can help. These experts can evaluate the state of the market and establish a certified earnings range commensurate with education and experience.
New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Fight for Fair Spousal Support
Our experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers have successfully represented countless clients in their divorce proceedings. Do not let a complicated situation keep you from moving forward with your life. With diligent and careful representation, even complex divorce cases can be resolved. Contact Lyons & Associates, P.C. today by calling 908-575-9777 or completing an online form. Our Morristown and Somerville offices serve clients in Morristown, Somerset, Woodbridge, Rockaway, Short Hills, Morristown, Chatham, Randolph, Morris Plains and throughout Morris County, New Jersey.