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How does a court determine earning potential?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2022 | Family Law

If you need child support from your spouse following your divorce, a court will have to determine how much your spouse can pay you. You may have heard that the judge will look at the earning potential of your spouse. This is a concept that involves the ability of your spouse to generate money to provide payments.

While your spouse may have a job, a court might look beyond the current employment of your spouse to figure out what your spouse could truly earn. FindLaw explains the different factors that go into determining the earning potential of a person.

Employment and educational background

The ability of an individual to earn a living can depend upon that person’s education. Your spouse may be eligible for a variety of higher-paying jobs if he or she went to college instead of just graduating from high school. Another factor is whether your spouse has a post-graduate degree as opposed to just a bachelor’s degree.

Work skills in general can determine whether a person has the ability to take on a good-paying job. Your spouse may have one or more valuable work skills even without a college degree. Previous employment may also reveal whether your spouse has held different jobs that could qualify your spouse for a higher-paying occupation.

Local job opportunities

Even if your spouse has all the credentials, skills and job history to qualify for a higher paying job, a judge may determine that there are no well-paying occupations in the area that fit your spouse’s qualifications. This might lower your spouse’s earning potential unless your spouse moves to another community to pursue opportunities there.

Active efforts to find a job

Looking at factors such as work skills and past employment history is important because it may clue you in that your spouse is not trying to maximize his or her earning potential. Some individuals deliberately seek a lower-paying job so they can avoid paying a large support amount.

If a court suspects this is the case, the judge could look at the actions your spouse is taking to find better work. Your spouse may not be applying for jobs or going to job interviews. If so, the court might impute a larger earning potential on your spouse even if it exceeds the current income of your spouse. This could compel your spouse to look for a higher-paying job.