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Job Loss Alone Will Not Necessarily Justify a Reduced Child Support Rate

Since New York child support rates are largely based on how much income each parent earns, people might naturally assume that when a paying parent loses their job, a court will approve a significant reduction in their monthly obligation. This is not always the case. To qualify for a reduction, a dismissal must be involuntary. A job resignation likely will not qualify even if the individual had an inkling that their job might be in jeopardy. Moreover, the court might require evidence that the parent seeking a rate reduction is actively seeking another comparable job.

In Siouffi v. Siouffi, a case decided by the Appellate Division’s Third Department in 2020, a physician sought a reduction in his child support obligation because he no longer held a lucrative position at a New York hospital and had taken a significant pay cut to work in a Florida facility. This was undisputed, but the nature of the job change raised several issues for the court evaluating whether the downward child support modification was warranted. These issues included:

  • Burden of proof — The parent seeking the modification of a child support rate has the legal burden to show that a substantial change has occurred and that it warrants a revision to the existing amount. No matter how strong you think your case for an adjustment might be, you cannot start paying a different rate until a new order has been entered.
  • Voluntariness of job change — A paying parent who wants to reduce their child support obligation due to a job loss must show that their departure was involuntary. In Dr. Siouffi’s case, he was told by a co-worker that his position at the hospital was “tenuous.” However, he was not fired and the co-worker did not have the authority to fire him. Dr. Siouffi simply took it upon himself to find a new place of employment. The court regarded this as a voluntary change that did not justify a child support modification.
  • Adequacy of job search — For an employment-related reduction in child support, the petitioning party must show that they made sufficient efforts to obtain a new job with similar income. Here, Dr. Siouffi provided only a vague account of his ostensible job search and he turned down a position that would have earned him more money than the one in which he eventually landed.

If you are seeking a child support adjustment due to a job change, medical crisis or some other significant event, it is important to act promptly and consult with a knowledgeable New York family lawyer. Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP assists parents throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties in these situations as well as other matters involving parenting and financial arrangements.