When a couple enters a divorce, one of the major factors considered is the respective incomes of the parties. Therefore, when a spouse is unemployed it is common for the employed spouse to be concerned regarding their financial status after their divorce. If you are entering a divorce, where your spouse is unemployed ensure you understand the laws surrounding unemployment with respect to divorce proceedings. Employ a knowledgeable attorney to assist you and protect your rights and look out for your financial wellbeing.
Before discussing a spouse’s unemployment, it is important to classify what type of unemployment it is. For instance, there is voluntary unemployment, voluntary underemployment, or involuntary unemployment. Each of these are accounted for in a different manner by the court.
If your spouse is voluntarily unemployed, meaning they have quit their job without good cause, and are not seeking alternative options, or they are underemployed based upon their skill set; the court may choose to impute income. Imputing income allows the court to assess what the spouse would be making if they were working. This imputation is dependent upon many factors such as: past earnings, tax returns, experience, education, qualifications, current job market, and reason for unemployment or underemployment. However, the court may only look back in time 5 years to determine a spouse’s work history. If the spouse has no prior work history for the past five years, the court may impute a full-time work week at the state’s minimum wage. Generally, imputation of income only occurs when the court determines that the current financial status of one or both of the parties is not an accurate depiction. However, before an income may be imputed by the judge, the party must have the opportunity to be heard. The party requesting the imputation bears the burden showing the amount to impute and why the court should impute such an amount. This is where an experienced aAttorney will be able to formulate an educated and proper legal argument for the imputation of income for a spouse.
Involuntary unemployment of a spouse is more difficult to determine. If the unemployment is due to a disability, the spouse will likely be collecting disability benefits, which will be accounted for as their source of income. However, if a spouse is actively seeking employment and is unable to secure a job the court is unlikely to impute income. In some cases, the court may provide a time period for the spouse to obtain employment, or set their income at a minimum wage standard.
The unemployment of a spouse, whether voluntary or involuntary, can affect a child support and alimony award. Therefore, it is important to determine if your spouse is voluntarily or involuntarily unemployed or underemployed to substantiate a proper imputation of income claim. Without imputation of income, an underemployed spouse will be able to claim their lack of ability to make support payments having you bear a significant financial burden or even attempt to request alimony from you.
Unemployment of a spouse can affect many details of your divorce, equitable distribution, alimony, or child support. Therefore, it is imperative to be properly informed and represented by a qualified lawyer to ensure proper arguments are made to protect your financial well-being and an equitable divorce order is obtained in your case.
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