Ending a marriage supplies more than enough upheaval of one’s life, but sometimes life can “pile on” when one least expects it – as would be the case when you find yourself suddenly not only without a spouse but also a job.
Job loss can be traumatic by itself, but even more so when in the midst of a divorce. It creates a great deal of financial uncertainty for both spouses. How do the courts handle such a development?
First, the court looks to the nature of the job loss. Is it a temporary layoff or a permanent separation? If permanent, how did it happen? This is probably the most important question in the process. If a spouse involuntarily loses a job through no fault of that spouse – downsizing, the cdompany goes belly up – the court will have a sympathetic ear and will not immediately expect the spouse to be held to the same level of income. However, if the spouse lost the job because of misconduct, the court will not let the spouse off the hook – that would reward spouses for trying to manipulate financial obligations during a divorce.
With these basic understandings, let’s take a look at the process from the perspective of each spouse.
If you are the spouse who lost your job through no fault of your own, you will want the court to take your current financial uncertainty into account in establishing support obligations. If you had been making $100,000, but now have zero income, and you do not think you will be able to find another job that can pay you as well, you will want to have the court impute your income at a lower level commensurate with what you think you can earn when you locate a new job.
If you are the spouse who depends on the other spouse for support, and that spouse has lost employment, you will rightly worry about the impact of the job loss. You will argue to the court that the other spouse can find comparable work at the same rate of pay, and that spouse should not be relieved of any financial duties of support at the same income level.
At this point, the court will consider how likely the unemployed spouse can become employed, and how reasonable it is to expect the pay to be at the same level. If the job market is sufficient and the positions available based on skill, education, and experience, the court will be less inclined to reduce future obligations. If, however, the job market has shifted in this field and retraining will be necessary, the court will look at some lower level of income.
Whether you are the spouse who lost the job or the spouse who needs support, remember that support amounts can be modified (unless the court finds maintenance unnecessary and awards none initially), and should circumstances change in the future and the spouse becomes employed at a higher rate, the other spouse can seek to modify.
If you have questions about job loss and divorce, contact us – we can help.