I Quit! :)

I have been divorced from my ex-wife for 3.5 years. We have a separation agreement that utilizes Worksheet B of AOC-CV-627, Rev. 10/02 to determine child support. I am considering voluntarily leaving my job. I am in a leadership position where there are no other similar positions or opportunities in this geographical region, and I have no intention to relocate. My income is approximately 3 times that of hers.

Per our agreement, “the amount of child support may be modified based on a change in circumstances affecting the child or a change in the income of either party sufficient to cause a 15% increase or decrease in the amount of child support pursuant to the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.” If I leave my job, my plan will include adjustment (lowering) of my child support obligation. I would pursue negotiation, but if needed, would seek adjustment per court petition per the separation agreement if negotiations are unsuccessful.

There would be two periods of my unemployment:

Period #1: During period #1, I would have no job and no income.
Period #2: During period #2, I would have secured a new job at a reduced income (1.5 times hers, reduced because I would not be able to secure a position as lucrative as my current position elsewhere).

Here are my questions:

  1. Would you advise I negotiate during period #1 or period #2 and why?
  2. Do you expect that if I negotiated during period #1, would an imputed income be a valid argument for child support calculations?
  3. If the answer to #2 is yes, what imputed income would you expect (the higher current income that is not achievable in this area or a lower “market value” income)?
  4. If the answer to #3 is “market value,” what evidence is needed to support my “market value?”
  5. If I negotiate during period #2, would you expect my newly acquired lower income to be used as my gross income in child support calculations if it is within reason for what is available for my education and experience in this geographical location?
  6. Does voluntarily leaving employment generally and negatively impact income assignments in child support calculations?
  7. Does voluntarily leaving employment generally and negatively impact child custody (assume 50/50 custody and that the child is taken care of financially)?

Thank you very much for your help!

If you are planning to leave your job, you should try to negotiate a new amount for Part 1, and include in that negotiation that when Part 2 arrives, you will voluntarily provide income information and rerun the child support calculator.

The child support guidelines allow the court to impute income to a party if that party is unemployed to avoid his or her child support obligation. You should know that some judges will impute income to an individual who is voluntarily underemployed, so if your matter gets to court, you may find yourself with the same obligation (or higher) if your income had gone up since the time your original child support amount was calculated.

You should have a consultation with an attorney in your area to determine if that is a possibility so you can be prepared prior to quitting your current job.