Can I quit my job to avoid paying support, or wait to go back to work to maximize support?

Posted on Apr 29, 2013 by Katie Carter

When spousal support is awarded, it is awarded in cases where one party makes substantially more money than the other. It doesn’t matter whether husband or wife makes more, because spousal support is gender neutral. In the olden days, a husband didn’t ask for support from his wife, but times are changing. These days, a husband or a wife can ask for spousal support, provided that the income is there to warrant that award of support.

If you’re expecting to ask for support from your husband or you’re afraid that he’s going to ask for support from you, your wheels are probably turning. How can you maximize the support you get from him, and minimize the support he can ask for from you? Obviously, if the calculation is based on income, you’re thinking of ways to change your income.

Should you quit your job? Or, if you were considering getting one, should you wait a little longer? After all, you’ll pay less in support if you don’t make money, right? And you’ll get more in spousal support if you don’t make anything, wouldn’t you?

Well, it’s not really quite that easy, especially if the court is involved.

If you’re considering quitting your job

It’s not a good idea to quit your job to avoid paying support. Your husband can’t do it, and you can’t do it. Why? Well, the court can impute income to you, even if you’re not making that income now. If your husband’s attorney proves that you quit your job (versus being fired) in order to avoid paying support, the judge has the authority to order you to pay support like you were still being paid for doing that old job.

That goes for your husband, too. If you’re afraid he’s going to quit his job to avoid paying you support, think again. That’s an old trick. So old, in fact, that the court has developed an answer to it. He can’t shirk his responsibilities to you by just quitting his job.

If you’re waiting to go back to work

I’m always surprised at how many women want to avoid going back to work just so that their husbands will be ordered to pay more support for a longer time. Though this may work in some cases, it can also seriously backfire. There was a recent Virginia Court of Appeals case that came down where a wife refused to go back to work. Not only did the judge seriously cut her award of support, but he also gave it to her for a MUCH shorter period of time than she would otherwise have received it. Yikes!

The bottom line is that it’s a good idea to live your life the way you’d live it if you didn’t have spousal support to worry about. Make the best choices you can for yourself, for your children (because, after all, any extra income you make on your own, or fail to make for yourself, affects them too!), and for your future. Let your spousal support award be whatever it is, but don’t do anything yourself that will jeopardize that award.