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Can My Ex Stop Working in Order to Stop Child Support?

Curiale Hostnik PLLC  July 3, 2024

In Washington State, both parents are legally obligated to financially support for their children, regardless of changes in employment or personal circumstances.  

But what happens if your ex decides to quit their job or significantly reduce their income? Can this action legally terminate their child support obligations? 

In short, no, your ex cannot legally evade their child support obligations by quitting their job or reducing their income. The court is well aware of such tactics and has measures in place to prevent them. Child support is determined with the child's best interests in mind, and the court will not allow one parent to shirk their responsibilities at the expense of the child's welfare. 

If you're dealing with this situation, please know that legal assistance is available. At Curiale Hostnik PLLC, we have experience handling child support cases involving irresponsible ex-partners trying to avoid their obligations. Contact our family law attorneys today to learn how we can help.  

Understanding Imputed Income

If the court determines that a parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed without a valid reason, it can impute income to that parent.  

When the court suspects that a parent is not earning to their full potential or is making efforts to reduce their income to avoid child support obligations, it can assign an income level to that parent based on various factors such as their work history, qualifications, and the state’s minimum wage.

This helps ensure that child support payments reflect what the parent should reasonably be earning, rather than their current, potentially manipulated, income level. 

By imputing income, the court closes any potential loophole where a parent might try to dodge their financial responsibilities by quitting their job or taking a lower-paying position without a valid reason. This mechanism protects the child's financial stability and welfare, ensuring that the parent is held accountable for their fair share of support.  

Legal professionals, like those at Curiale Hostnik PLLC, can assist in presenting a strong case to the court to impute income appropriately, thereby safeguarding the child's best interests. 

Enforcement Measures

Washington State has strict measures in place to enforce child support payments. If a parent fails to meet their obligations, the following actions may be taken: 

  • Property liens 

  • Licensing restrictions 

  • Wage garnishment 

  • Intercepting tax refunds 

What to Do if Your Ex Stops Working

If you find yourself in a situation where your ex has stopped working or significantly reduced their income on purpose to avoid child support, we advise you to take the following steps: 

  1. Document the changes: Keep a detailed record of any updates in your ex's employment status and income. This information will be valuable when presenting your case to the court. 

  1. File a motion for enforcement: You can file a motion with the court to enforce the existing child support order. The court can investigate your ex's employment status and determine whether imputed income should be applied. 

  1. Seek legal counsel: Hiring an experienced family law attorney can give you the guidance and representation needed to navigate this challenging situation effectively. They can help present a strong case aimed at ensuring your child continues to receive the financial support they need. 

Understanding Child Support Obligations in Washington State 

In Washington, child support is calculated using state laws and guidelines designed to ensure a fair contribution from both parents based on their incomes and other factors.  

Washington uses a standardized child support schedule to determine the amount each parent should contribute. This calculation considers various factors, including:  

  • Each parent's income 

  • The number of children 

  • The overall needs of the family 

  • Childcare costs 

  • Health insurance 

  • Education expenses 

Can Child Support Orders Be Modified?

Yes. Once an initial child support order is established, it can only be modified under specific circumstances. Modifications may be sought if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a substantial change in either parent's income. 

However, the parent seeking modification must provide proof of this change and demonstrate how it impacts their ability to meet child support obligations. 

It's critical to understand that a parent's financial obligation to support their child does not simply vanish if they stop working or earn less. This protects children from financial instability and holds parents accountable for their responsibilities. 

Additionally, the enforcement measures in place, including wage garnishment, tax refund interception, and property liens, demonstrate the seriousness with which Washington State treats the welfare of children. 

How Do Child Support Payments Get Discontinued?

While voluntary unemployment or underemployment cannot terminate child support obligations, there are some instances where payments may be discontinued. These include: 

  • The child reaches the state's age of majority

  • The child dies

  • The child gets married

  • The child goes to college 

It's important to note that child support may need to continue after the child reaches the age of majority, particularly in cases where the child is disabled. 

Seek Skilled Legal Counsel

If you're facing issues with an ex-partner trying to avoid child support through employment changes, seeking professional legal assistance can help you navigate and resolve these challenges effectively. At Curiale Hostnik PLLC, our experienced child support attorneys are here to protect your child's best interests. 

Located in Puyallup, Washington, our family law firm proudly serves clients throughout Pierce County, including Puyallup, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, University Place, Spanaway, and Lakewood. Whether you need assistance in enforcing a child support order, seeking a modification, or addressing other family law matters, our team is here to help. 

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and receive the legal support you need to safeguard your child's future.