Many times in cases where I represent the Father in a Maryland custody case, child support is often an issue where perhaps some believe the man is treated somewhat inequitably. While I do not necessarily agree that is always the case, I have heard many Father’s say “If I were a woman, child support would not even be an issue, I would get what I am supposed to get.” Well for all those Dad’s out there, I am happy to report that I recently successfully argued a ‘voluntary impoverishment’ case. In this case, the non-custodial parent (who happens to be a Mother) is being forced to pay child support based upon what she has the ability to earn because the Court determined she was not doing so at the time of the hearing.
Voluntary Impoverishment cases are difficult cases to prove unless the non-custodial parent basically admits s/he not working to avoid paying child support. In Maryland, for the purposes of child support guidelines, a parent shall be considered “voluntarily impoverished” whenever the parent has made the free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond his or her control, to render himself or herself without adequate resources. The factors a Court will consider in making such a determination as to whether a parent is a voluntary impoverished are: (1) his or her current physical condition; (2) his or her respective level of education; (3) the timing of any change in employment or other financial circumstances relative to the divorce proceedings; (4) the relationship between the parties prior to the initiation of divorce proceedings; (5) his or her efforts to find an retain employment; (6) his or her efforts to secure retraining if that is needed; (7) whether he or she has ever withheld support; (8) his or her past work history; (9) the area in which the parties live and the status of the job market there; and (10) any other considerations presented by either party.
In the particular case, after considering all of the above factors the key factor for the Court was (5) her efforts to find and retain employment. At the first hearing, the Court actually ordered the Mother to make a certain number of applications each week of which a certain number had to be in person interviews, not just on-line applications. When we returned for the second hearing, the Mother had a stack of unorganized computer print outs, which although requested to be provided prior to the second hearing date, were not provided until we were in Court that day. After a review of the documents and a cross examination that revealed the Mother was limiting her availability for potential employers; turned down a job because she didn’t want to start when they offered; and was not wearing appropriate interview attire, the Court found that the Mother was voluntarily impoverishing herself. As a result the Court imputed her an income equivalent to that which she had the ability to earn. The icing on the cake for my client was that the Court also imposed monetary sanctions for the Mother’s failure to timely provide the documents brought to Court on the date of the second and final hearing. At the end of the day, this particular Dad is finally receiving a decent amount of child support based on what the Mother has the ability to earn and is really a victory for all custodial parents, whether you happen to be Mom or Dad.
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