It is a matter of public policy that parents are responsible for the economic support of their children. In the event of a divorce where there are minor children, the ability of each parent to contribute to the support of those children will be established at that time, and an amount of child support will be set.
But what if a parent’s ability to contribute to the support of the children changes?
Paul was such a parent. At the time of his divorce, he had been employed for several years as an agricultural consultant with a for-profit firm developing new technology for farmers in third-world countries. However, the firm began to experience financial difficulties and eventually went bankrupt. Paul then had an opportunity for employment with a non-profit doing similar work but at a salary about half of his prior salary.
Paul’s loss of employment and opportunity for lower-paid employment constitutes what the law in the District of Columbia terms “a substantial and material change in circumstances” which is the threshold for a modification of child support. The law in Maryland and Virginia establishes a similar threshold for modification. Would a court grant Paul a reduction in the amount of his child support obligation?
The answer to that question is very fact specific. Was Paul’s change of employment “voluntary?” Did Paul have other, more highly-compensated employment opportunities available to him? How hard did Paul look for other jobs? Was Paul’s choice “unreasonable?” Did he give his own preferences priority over his duty to support his children?
Parsing out the relevant facts and applying the law to them is necessary for assessing any child support modification case. So it will be important for Paul to early on consult an experienced family law attorney to work with him in understanding the relevant facts and then crafting an approach to deal with his unique situation.