My child support question is about forcing my ex-wife to get a job.
I pay her above the state-ordered child support amount because I feel bad for her. But I am fed up that she refuses to look for work while I continue to pay her extra money even as my own income has decreased.
Can I get the courts to force my ex-wife to get a job?
I am unable to give you legal advice on divorce on these matters. However, I can give you general divorce information based on Indiana's child support laws where I am licensed to practice.
The amount that you are court-ordered to pay is the only amount that you owe your ex-wife. If you decide to give her additional funds then the courts often treat additional funds as a gift.
Based on the limited facts presented in your question above, it seems that she was not employed when child support was previously calculated. If your circumstances have changed as well, such as you have experienced a pay decrease, then you may want to strongly consider filing a petition to modify your child support obligation.
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Where I practice, before a child support order may be modified, you would have to demonstrate a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that makes the present order of child support unreasonable or that the amount of support was ordered at least 12 months ago differs from the present child support order by more than 20%. A change in circumstances may include a change in the income of the parents, such as your recent experience of changed living circumstances.
When determining whether your child support obligation should be modified, the court may find that your ex-wife is voluntarily unemployed without just cause. The court will question her as to why she is unemployed, if she is looking for employment, how does she support herself financially, and other similar questions.
If the court finds that she can be and should be employed, but chooses not be employed, then child support shall be calculated based on a determination of her potential income. A determination of potential income shall be made by determining her employment potential and probable earnings based on her work history, qualifications, job opportunities, and earnings levels in the community.
If she has no work history and lacks higher education, the facts of the case may indicate that her weekly gross income be set at least at the federal minimum wage level. Therefore, at the very least, if she is mentally and physically capable of working a full-time job at minimum wage, then she should be imputed with that income. The court cannot force her to get a job, but it can impute income to her at least at minimum wage if she is unemployed.
Please understand that my opinions are based upon the limited facts that you provided to me. For financial advice on divorce and child support laws, I urge you to contact a divorce lawyer.