Can you quit your job to reduce child support obligations? After all, child support (and spousal support) are based off of your gross income so a lower income results in lower support. Why work long hours at a stressful job when you can only work part-time or move to that dream job that doesn’t pay as much but you will enjoy more?
This is not an uncommon question that family lawyers receive. The simple answer to why it may not work is that you are not the first person who thought of it. Others before you have thought of it and done it. Judges have seen it and lawmakers have responded. Moreover, there is legislation in place to prevent payors from attempting to reduce child support artificially or unfairly. Judges are also on the lookout for those who change jobs with the intention of lowering their child support obligations.
Imputing Income for People Who Attempt to Reduce Child Support
The Federal Child Support Guidelines determines how child support is to be calculated across Canada. Section 19 of the Guidelines relates to “imputing income.” Imputing income is setting your income to an amount the Judge determines to be appropriate and then determining support from there, in an effort to counteract those who, intentionally or not, have their income lower than it should be because they are attempting to reduce their child support.
For example, if you choose to quit your job to go work part-time, or take a significant pay cut to try out that dream job, a Judge may impute an income against you. In addition, the Judge will want to know the reasons for your change in employment and the Judge will be the one to decide if they should impute an income against you. After that, you will need to provide evidence to rebut the claim that you are intentionally unemployed or underemployed because if an income is imputed against you, your child support may not be reduced but your ability to pay that support will be, resulting in an increased financial burden to you.
The Alberta Court of Appeal has set a high burden of proof on the person seeking to impute income to the other to show a “specific intention to undermine or avoid support obligations, or circumstances which permit the court to infer that the intention of the obligor is to undermine or avoid his or her support obligations.” Despite this high burden, changing or quitting jobs has been found to have been made with the intention to undermine or avoid support obligations resulting in an income being imputed.
If you have questions about reducing child support or changing jobs while paying child or spousal support, it is always recommended you seek legal advice.
 Hunt v Smolis-Hunt, 2001 ABCA 299, at paragraph 42
Written by Michael Ross
Related Posts: Self-Employment Income and Child or Spousal Support Payments What factors are considered in Alberta spousal support decisions? Imputing Income for the Purpose of Calculating Spousal or Child Support