Finances are one of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce, especially when one spouse has a higher income. Spousal support, also known as alimony, is awarded to lessen or avoid the adverse financial consequences that could affect an economically disadvantaged party in a divorce.
But how is spousal support determined in a divorce? The court considers many factors, one of the most significant being earning ability. Here’s what you need to know about earning ability and its impact on spousal support during a divorce.
Earning ability, also known as earning capacity, refers to each spouse’s capacity to make money. Earning ability can be actual income or an estimation based on other elements if the spouse isn’t working.
The difference in earning ability between spouses influences a spousal support decision during divorce proceedings. If one spouse has a higher earning capacity or much higher income than the other, it’s much more likely the lower-earning spouse will be awarded spousal support.
In addition to actual income, the court considers other factors when determining earning ability, such as:
It is common for one spouse to voluntarily reduce their income to stay home and raise children. In these cases, actual income can’t be used to determine earning ability. Instead, the court may impute (or attribute) income to the non-working spouse based on listed factors.
Determining earning capacity can also be complicated if a spouse is underworking, not making as much as possible based on the qualifications and factors mentioned above. Suppose one spouse has a medical degree but is working as an artist. In that case, their income could be attributed to a doctor’s pay, and they could be ordered to pay spousal support congruent to what they could be earning instead of their current income.
Income computation can be complex and will require the help of experts to accurately determine your spouse’s earning ability.
It is not unusual for spouses to try to hide or downplay their income to receive a favorable spousal support judgment. A spouse may have a secret bank account or liquidate marital assets and keep the money from their partner. If a spouse is intentionally unemployed or underemployed to minimize their apparent earnings, they can be sanctioned, and their income imputed.
As with income computation, your attorney will need to work with financial experts such as forensic accountants to uncover hidden assets or income.
Unlike child support, which gets calculated using a precise formula, spousal support is usually left to a judge’s discretion. The judge doesn’t have to follow specific calculations and will decide based on the abovementioned factors. Because these factors are often intricate and open to interpretation, especially when there is a large discrepancy in earnings, having an attorney on your side can be advantageous.
You shouldn’t handle your divorce and alimony proceedings on your own. A lawyer can work to make sure you and your spouse’s earning capacity is determined honestly and accurately.
If you face divorce in Ohio, you deserve quality representation from a team dedicated to protecting your best interests. The spousal support attorneys at Erb Legal can answer your questions and determine the best way to navigate your case.
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