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What happens to alimony if an ex-spouse quits their job?

You and your ex divorced earlier this year. He’s a doctor, and he earns considerably more than you do. Consequently, the court ordered that he pay you a sizeable sum in alimony each month. However, your ex just announced that he’s decided to quit his private practice and travel instead to Rwanda to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders.

You’re all in favor of philanthropic work, but what does this turn of events mean for your bottom line? Once your ex’s income takes a nose dive, is he off the hook for paying your alimony?

Fortunately for you, it’s unlikely that your ex’s decision will affect your spousal support. If your ex had been fired or laid off from his job, the court would be more likely to be flexible surrounding your ex’s financial obligations. However, being voluntarily unemployed—or underemployed—is a different matter.

Calculating alimony

When the court calculates alimony, it bases its decision heavily on each party’s income. However, another important factor that’s considered is earning capacity. If history shows that your ex has the potential to earn $200,000 per year, for example, then it’s unlikely the court will change the mandated spousal support just because he decided to walk away from that income.

What you can do

If you believe your ex is trying to deliberately reduce their income as a means of reducing their alimony obligations, consult with your divorce attorney. You may decide to hire a vocational expert, who can examine your ex’s circumstances—age, health, educational level, work history, etc.—and submit an official opinion on your ex’s true earning capacity. The court will consider this judgment in any review of your case.

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