Can You Reduce Your Child Support Payments When You Retire?
One of the most significant decisions in later life is choosing when to retire. The decision can be even more complicated when you have child support obligations. Many people are surprised when they learn that retirement does not automatically reduce child support. Retiring, collecting a pension, and taking IRA withdrawals usually correlate with reduced income. Unfortunately for child support payors, this reduced income is generally considered to be voluntary by the family court.
Is Your Retirement Voluntary?
If you are paying or owe child support, the court will not reduce your child support based on a voluntary reduction in income. However, in some cases, the drop in income associated with retirement can be sufficient grounds for a modification of court-ordered child support.
Factors The California Family Court Considers
In considering whether your decision to retire will justify a reduction in child support, the first question the court will ask is whether the decision to retire was voluntary. The Placer County family court wants to make sure that you are not retiring only to reduce child support payments. The family court will consider your retirement to be a voluntary reduction in income if you are young and healthy enough to continue to work. On the other hand, if you are at retirement age and in poor health, you have a much stronger argument that your retirement is not voluntary.
Age of The Children
If the children are very young, the court is less likely to reduce child support. Simply put, the policies behind the Guideline formula for calculating child support place the children’s interests as the state’s top priority, and in the court’s eyes, the parties’ decision to have children late in life comes with an expectation of supporting those children while they’re dependents. Accordingly, if you are approaching retirement age (let’s say 65), but physically able to work and have elementary school children, the court may be disinclined to reduce child support.
Mitigating Reduced Income
The next question is whether you are taking any steps to mitigate reduced income due to retirement. The judge will want to know whether you have another way to supplement your retirement income. If you have any additional income sources, the family court can consider the supplemental income in conjunction with your pension in determining the amount to be reduced.
Your Central Argument
The key is to avoid the impression that you are only retiring to reduce child support. To get a reduction in child support, you need a strong reason why you plan to retire (if you have not already), and you may need to mitigate your retirement income. If you are considering retiring while you are subject to a child support order, you should carefully look into the ramifications before you retire.
Seek Legal Advice Before You Retire
In short, if the other parent does not agree with your request to lower child support due to retirement, the courts may still side with you as long as you can present a strong case that your retirement isn’t voluntary, but rather necessary given your age and/or health. As you can imagine, that will not be an easy task without experienced family law representation. The first step toward retirement and reducing child support is a consultation with a local family law attorney who can help you understand the legal process and the likelihood of modifying your child support payments.