Child Support: does a father with joint custody who lost his job have the right to claim child support, if the mother is employed?
My answer applies for the State of Utah, where I practice divorce and family law:
I assume from your question:
I. that currently either A) the hypothetical Dad in your question is ordered to pay child support to the mother or B) that neither parent is ordered to pay child support to the other;
II. Dad did not quit his job or contrive to get fired from his job for the sake of voluntary impoverishment; and
III. now because of the father losing his job, if the child support award were calculated based purely upon these new circumstances, Dad would qualify for a child support award from the mother.
The problem arises with the facts in part III of the hypothetical situation.
If Dad truly lost his job (didn’t quit or contrive to get fired), but 1) can or does obtain a new job making essentially the same wage, then child support will not be modified; or 2) cannot prove that he can soon reasonably expect to get a new job making essentially the same wage, then child support will not be modified.
If Dad lost his job and could prove to the court’s satisfaction that there is reasonable possibility of him obtaining another job in the same field making the same or a similar wage, then maybe the court would find that the days of Dad making that $X per hour/per month in that field have ended.
But the analysis doesn’t end there.
Even if Dad could prove that there is no reasonable possibility of him obtaining another job in the same field making that $X per hour or per month he used to make in that field, then next we’d need to determine whether Dad is qualified to earn $X per hour/per month in some other field. If the answer is “yes,” then the child support order will almost certainly not be modified. But if the answer is “no,” then the next question is asked.
The next question is, “If Dad can no longer earn approximately the $X per hour/per month he used to make, what wage/salary, if any, can he reasonably be expected to earn?”
If the answer is “Dad suffered a stroke or a bad accident and now he’s 100% disabled,” then the answer will be $0.00, and you can move to the next paragraph of this post.
If instead the answer is “Well, Dad’s job as a ______ may have gone away for good, but Dad can still work at jobs that pay $Y per hour/per month,” then the answer will likely be that dad will be imputed the $Y per hour/per month wage (“impute” in this context means treating Dad, for child support calculation purposes, as though he actually earns that income because he could earn that income, even though he does not currently earn it).
- clearly is incapable of earning any income (due to disability, for example);
- does not receive any income that is fair game for child support calculation purposes (in Utah, income that is used to determine one’s ability to pay child support is defined as “prospective income from any source, including earned and nonearned income sources which may include salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, rents, gifts from anyone, prizes, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, alimony from previous marriages, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment compensation, income replacement disability insurance benefits, and payments from ‘nonmeans-tested’ government programs (See Utah Code § 78B-12-203); or
- is imputed $0 or less of an income than Mom earns,
then and only then will the court likely modify the child support award so that Mom will end up paying Dad child support.
Here’s the link to Utah State Office of Recovery Services child support calculator:
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277