Serving Rome, New York residents with legal issues

What role does earning potential play in determining support?

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2024 | Spousal Support

Whichever side of the alimony order you’re on, you know that income plays a big role. Both spouses’ incomes are considered when judges determine how much, if anything, one spouse will be ordered to pay the other.

Spousal maintenance, as alimony is called in New York law, is meant to help ensure that the lesser-earning spouse (including those who haven’t earned an income because they’ve been stay-at-home parents) are financially stable after divorce.

Determining “imputed” income

Judges don’t just consider spouses’ actual income. They also consider their earning potential, which is sometimes referred to as “imputed” income. A person’s imputed income is what they could reasonably be expected to earn given their work experience, education, training, skills, age and health and the job market.

While most people’s actual and imputed income are in the same ballpark, there are times, unfortunately, when a divorcing or divorced spouse may intentionally pass up job or promotion opportunities to avoid paying more alimony (or in some cases, even child support). Sometimes, spouses who are receiving support may not try to reach their earning potential if it would mean receiving less money from their ex. 

Often, when people choose to remain underemployed or even unemployed, it’s done out of deep animosity for their ex. Sometimes, people believe they’ve been treated unfairly by the court, so they see this as a way of making things fair.

What can you do if your ex is intentionally minimizing their income?

What’s crucial to know is that if you believe your spouse is choosing not to live up to their earning potential, you can and should deal with the matter in court. If you’re the one paying support, it’s critical not to disobey your support order, as that can have serious legal consequences. 

If you take the matter to court, you’ll need to provide evidence that your ex is intentionally earning less than they’re capable of or perhaps using dishonest tactics too. They will likely need to provide evidence to the contrary. Whichever side of this matter you’re on, it’s important to have experienced legal guidance to protect your rights and make your case.