Flipping Burgers: Why he can’t work at McDonald’s and pay you less in support

Every so often, I’ll get a call from a client whose husband thinks he has the system totally figured out. “He says he’ll quit his job and go and work at McDonalds,” she’ll tell me, crying. “He said he’d rather flip burgers than pay me a dime of support!”

Whether we’re talking about child support or spousal support, your husband will not be able to quit his job in order to avoid paying it. In fact, if he does quit his job, he may find himself in some serious hot water. He has a legal obligation to pay child support and, if your case is such that you would be awarded child support, he isn’t going to be able to avoid paying it simply by quitting his job.

If he has a high-paying job, and he leaves that job and is either unemployed or takes a serious pay cut, the court can order that a certain level of income is “imputed” to him. That means that, even though he’s being paid minimum wage at McDonald’s, he can be responsible for the income that he had at the big company where he used to be CEO—even if he’s not making it anymore.

That doesn’t mean that if he’s been laid off and takes the only job available to him, and that job just so happens to be McDonald’s, that income would be imputed to him. Income is generally imputed in a situation where one party is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, and that unemployment or underemployment is affecting a domestic support obligation. Similarly, if he has been a low wage earner, he won’t have income imputed to him.

If you know or suspect that your husband quit his job in order to avoid paying support, you should schedule a consultation with a Virginia divorce attorney. You’ll have to prove in court that he quit (which can usually be done using discovery techniques), and then you have a strong argument that he should be imputed income based on what he was earning before he quit.

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