The courts won’t accept an artificial reduction in income as a basis upon which to decide future support obligations of one spouse to another. Most courts are pretty sophisticated in being able to spot that. And if that is one spouse’s divorce planning, if that be the goal of a high-income spouse, that goal being to reduce their income to reduce their exposure to a higher level spousal support, that’s not likely going to succeed.
The courts will either hold the spouse to their historic ability to earn and the courts are empowered to do that. Or the courts will income average to minimize the impact of recent lower income years. Now that being said, sometimes there is a reduction in the earnings of one spouse or the other, or both leading into a period of marital disharmony, into a period of dissolution of marriage, into litigation of the dissolution, and there are legitimate reasons for that.
No matter how many years I practice family law, I hope I never lose sight of the fact that this is as profound and is impacting an experience as most people will go through in their life. I think many years ago Anna Freud did research on the degrees of grieving in life. And grieving over a lost marriage actually was greater than grieving over the death of a spouse because with the death, there was a finality to it.
And in a dissolution or divorce, that finality doesn’t exist. People are distracted; people are not functioning at their best when they’re going through divorces, in most instances. And that would be reflected in their inability to maximize their earnings and maximize their productivity and effectively – productivity at wage earning. So while I would certainly be skeptical of a reduction in income leading up to the time of the divorce, I wouldn’t rule out that there could be instances where that is legitimate and easily explained.
Leslie Shaw practices family law in both California and Nevada, and has been involved in close to 1,000 family law matters largely involving litigation throughout his 40 year career. He is also a Certified Family Law Attorney, a status granted by the California Board of Legal Specialization.