By Daniel Exner
If you are paying child support and your ex-wife retires, will you have to pay more child support because her income is lower?
The general answer to this common child support question will depend on your current child custody schedule and the recipient spouse’s reasons for retiring.
Where I practice, child support is allocated in the best interests of the children and based on the respective income of the two parents. The theory is that children of divorcing parents should not be subjugated to different standards because their parents are no longer living together.
Accordingly, states apply certain guidelines that attempt to maintain the children’s financial status quo in both households. This equation is based on the child custody schedule in my state, but other states may utilize a completely different system.
How Much Should You Be Paying?
In some states, child support is based on a straight percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. If your ex-spouse in the primary custodial parent, then your support may be based on a straight percentage and your ex-spouse’s decision to retire may not affect your support payments either way.
If you and your ex-spouse exercise an equal parenting time schedule, than child support may be based on a calculation that takes each ex-spouse’s monthly income into account. Your ex-spouse may be able to petition the court for child support modification if this is the case.
Before the court grants the child support modification, however, it will assess whether your ex-spouse’s retirement amounts to shirking. A party “shirks” when he or she avoids his or her duties to another person.
In terms of retirement, the court may weigh whether your ex-spouse’s retirement is the result of a long and natural work history or a voluntary and unreasonable reduction in income. If the court finds the retirement to be a voluntary and unreasonable reduction in income, it may choose to “impute” your ex-spouse’s income and the support amount may remain the same.
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