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How to manage support agreements when income is inconsistent

| Jan 22, 2021 | Child Custody & Support |

For couples with predictable income, determining support agreements after a divorce can be a fairly straightforward calculation. However, for those with fluctuating income, it can be a trickier topic. A wide range of individuals might confront the challenge of income shifts when determining support amounts, including those who are self-employed, compensated based on commission, or are laid off at some point during or following the divorce. Here are some tips for managing these unique, but not uncommon, situations under West Virginia family law.

Those who have income that regularly fluctuates due to the nature of their profession should address these potentialities when initially determining support amounts. One option in these cases is to pay support on a sliding scale, with exact amounts determined in accordance with actual earnings. In these agreements, the payor usually agrees to a minimum payment (or “floor”) as well as a ceiling, based on income history. This can be a good way to ensure commitments do not exceed earnings; however, this type of arrangement requires ongoing disclosure of all earnings to an ex for the duration of the support period, which could lead to some challenges, especially if there is a lack of trust between parties.

A second scenario is income fluctuation that is not foreseen during the initial support agreement, such as one resulting from a layoff. Individuals who seek a reduction in support obligations due to a change in income will want to show the court that the reduction in income was beyond their control, and that they are seeking employment that will result in similar wages. Individuals who voluntarily take a lower-paying job, or are fired due to their own behaviour, will likely be unsuccessful in seeking a modification.

In any of these cases, the best tool an individual can have is the ability to negotiate with the other party. When both parties feel that the other is seeking a fair arrangement, rather than trying to take advantage or “win,” the discussions can go much more smoothly. Keeping things professional by working through a lawyer with a clear understanding of family law in West Virginia can make a significant different in the outcome for these cases, and the speed at which issues are resolved.