How job loss can affect the divorce process

The process of untying the knot can suddenly become even more stressful for couples if one spouse loses his or her job. When this happens, a court often makes an attempt to develop a better understanding of the circumstances involved before making any rulings regarding divorce-related issues such as spousal or child support.

The court will likely address job loss during a divorce based on why a spouse is no longer working. If a higher-earning spouse loses their job due to company-wide layoffs, for instance, a judge is more likely to make appropriate income adjustments. But if a spouse was fired because of their actions, the court will likely expect them to still meet their divorce-related financial obligations. However, if an unemployed spouse is honestly unable to provide support until they regain employment, this fact may be addressed in the divorce agreement.

For example, the agreement may state that a certain percentage of a paying spouse's income will go towards support obligations once they start working again. On the other hand, if a lower-earning spouse has lost their job, the higher-earner may be required to pay more until their former spouse is re-employed. In both of these instances, a sliding scale or formula may be used to ensure that a paying spouse isn't unfairly burdened. An unemployed spouse may also be advised to keep records of job-search efforts in case the court requests them.

Judges tend to look unfavorably at situations where an unemployed spouse purposely accepts a lower-earning job or uses their time between jobs to go back to school. A divorce attorney might provide the right type of guidance for a divorcing spouse looking to avoid such missteps as they seek new employment while ending a marriage. When it's the other spouse who is unemployed, a lawyer may use the discovery process to better understand the circumstances and determine how to proceed with negotiations.

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