This is the next post in a series of articles discussing alimony awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous article explained the discretion granted to Nevada courts in determining whether or not to award alimony. Decisions about whether and how much spousal support is appropriate are made on a case by case basis after reviewing the circumstances of the parties. This post will address how alimony awards may be impacted by a spouse’s underemployment. For obvious reasons, alimony negotiations can become contentious in a divorce proceeding. Retaining an experienced divorce attorney to help you navigate the process. If you are in need of assistance, contact my office today to speak to a lawyer.
As discussed in the previous post, an important factor in a spousal support determination is the financial position of each party at the end of the marriage. If there is a significant variance in the spouses’ respective incomes, a court may decide to grant ongoing support to the lower earning spouse. On the other hand, if the parties earn similar amounts, the court may find that no support is required. If one party demonstrates that the other is “underemployed,” however, the analysis may change. In Nevada, a person is considered underemployed when he or she chooses to earn a wage that is less than commensurate with their skill level. If one is voluntarily underemployed it may be viewed as a strategy to avoid or reduce their support obligations.
To evaluate whether someone is underemployed, a judge will review the specific facts surrounding their employment. For example, if a spouse changed jobs just before or during a divorce proceeding, a court may consider the person’s reasons for changing employment. These may include evidence about whether the previous job was voluntarily terminated or based upon any documented physical or mental health issues. One’s education level, work experience, earnings history and attempts to find similar employment may also important. While there are certain valid reasons for changing jobs, however, simply quitting a job and failing to seek alternative equivalent employment may be viewed as voluntary underemployment.
If a court decides one spouse is intentionally underemployed to skew an alimony calculation, the court may use the person’s earning potential versus their actual lower earnings as the basis for the award. For example, suppose a husband has been employed as a bartender at a prominent casino, typically working 5 shifts a week for the past 10 years. After his wife files for divorce, he reduces his shifts to 2 per week and therefore reports significantly lower income to the court for purposes of evaluating his potential spousal support obligations. While he claims that his reduced schedule was the result of a general reduction in hours all employees, his personnel file contains his written request for a voluntary schedule change. If the court decides he is purposely underemployed, the court may grant the wife alimony based on his historical salary.
If you believe your spouse is manipulating the system by being underemployed, contact an experienced Las Vegas family law attorney to represent your interests. My firm is dedicated to providing the highest level of customer service to our clients. Contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.