When a family court makes its rulings, those orders are based on each spouse’s current circumstances. Both spousal and child support are based on each spouse’s income. Spousal support rulings also consider other specifics of your marriage.
If those circumstances change significantly, the court can create a new ruling to accommodate those changes. This is called a post-decree modification. Losing or changing jobs may justify a post-decree modification. However, this is not a universal standard. It all depends on the change and why it occurred.
In What Way Did Your Job Change?
A job change can affect either child or spousal support, depending on how it changed. Changes could result in your paying more or less for support.
Job Loss or Demotion
Spousal support assumes that one spouse needs a helping hand to maintain their quality of life. Child support is there to keep kids fed and healthy. Both forms of support assume your ability to contribute.
If you lose your job or make significantly less money, the original support orders are no longer relevant. They were determined based on your income at the time and the assumption that this income would remain stable. When you’ve lost a significant portion of your income, keeping up with support payments becomes unreasonable.
You may be able to appeal to the court, showing them your current financial circumstances. If the court agrees to a modification, it will base support orders on your current income, effectively starting the process over.
Promotion or Switching to a Higher-Paying Job
The circumstances above also apply if you make more money. Remember, spousal support decisions are partially based on income, and income is the primary consideration in a child support decision.
If you make significantly more money, your ex could request that you pay more in child support. After all, a percentage of your income should go to support the kids, and your payments should reflect your current income. Ultimately, this adjustment will be based on the child support formula, so an increase in payments should not be a huge blow to your finances.
Your ex could also request an increase in spousal support payments. This modification could be harder for them to justify. Generally, the court assumes that the marriage is over, and your spousal support obligations are there to keep your ex comfortable. At best, spousal support helps someone become independent, giving them a cushion while they rebuild their lives.
Since you earned this promotion after the marriage, the court may see your income increase as irrelevant to the original spousal support decision. However, the court can consider factors such as your ex’s needs and the length of the marriage. It could still rule in their favor, increasing your spousal support payments
Why Did Your Job Change?
If you accepted a higher-paying job or position, there is no uncertainty about the chain of events. You saw a better opportunity and took it.
If, however, you lost your job or suffered a demotion, you will be subject to scrutiny. The court doesn’t just need to know that your job changed. It also wants to know why.
You Were Laid Off or Demoted for Business Reasons
In an ever-shifting economy, companies often have no choice but to lay off or demote employees to stay afloat. These losses are not legally considered the fault of the affected worker. If your job loss or demotion was not your fault, you may be eligible for a support modification.
However, courts will also consider your earning potential. You may be out of work now, but you may have specialized training in an in-demand field. Generally, courts must believe that your income changes are at least semi-permanent before granting a modification.
You Were Fired or Demoted for Poor Performance
Courts are generally unsympathetic to those who, through poor performance, lost income. They typically see this situation as your problem, and they expect you to fix it. You can sometimes get a modification in these circumstances, but doing so is an uphill battle.
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated through bias, retaliation, etc., seek the help of a good attorney. They can help present your case to the court, demonstrating that your firing or demotion was unjust, and you still deserve a post-decree modification.
You Chose a Lower-Paying Job or Position
If you made a conscious decision to make less money, it’s going to be very difficult to convince the court that you deserve a support modification. Generally, the court assumes that you’re aware of your expenses, and your support obligations included in those obligations. You chose to make less money, the court is likely to say, so it’s on you to figure out how to keep up.
What Should You Do Next?
If you need to request a modification, or if you believe your ex is asking for an unfair increase in your payments, contact an attorney.
You can always plea to the courts yourself for a post-decree modification, but you will fare better with the help of a legal professional. They can help you collect the evidence you need to prove your change of status and your lack of fault. As attorneys, they are essentially helping you build an argument to justify your request.
The same applies to unreasonable increases in your payments. You can try to fight this yourself, but a lawyer’s help will increase your chances of success. They will help build a case against these unfair alterations, arguing for more tenable payment options.
Trust our firm for help with post-decree modifications. For a free consultation, call (914) 312-4131 or contact us online.