If I choose to work for less money, will a New York court reduce my child support payment?

As a general rule, when a party voluntarily assumes a lower-paying job, New York courts will not reduce the child support payment. Courts in New York reason that an obligor (party responsible for making child support payments) acts in bad faith when he or she willingly leaves steady employment for a position that is less likely to provide sufficient income to satisfy the child support payment.

Depending on the specific facts and circumstances, a court in New York may grant a temporary reduction or suspension in child support when the obligor experiences a reduced income by no fault of his own. In these cases, courts focus on whether the obligor is making a good faith effort to return to his previous level of income.

On the other hand, in New York, a reduction in the amount of child support will be denied where the obligor failed to make a good faith effort to obtain employment which matches his qualifications and experiences.

The reasoning for the rule described above is rooted in the idea that the amount of child support paid is not based on a parent’s current economic situation, but rather it is determined by a parent’s assets and earning powers. In Matter Fries v. Price-Yablin (4th Dept. 1994), for example, a New York court found a licensed practical nurse was capable of earning more than the $60 per week she received from doing part-time office work. The Court pointed out the obligor “could still work in a medical office on a full time basis” and earn sufficient money to pay the child support payment. Based on this finding, the court held the obligor voluntarily remained unemployed or underemployed to avoid her obligations to provide court-ordered support. Therefore, the obligor’s petition for a reduction in amount of child support was denied.

 

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