A Spouse with a Bonafide Motive for Reducing their Income May Use the Change in Circumstances as a Basis for Reducing their Spousal Support Obligation

After a dissolution proceeding, wife was awarded spousal support to be paid by husband. At the time of dissolution husband had a disposable income of $4,700 per month while wife, who was a nurse, had a disposable income of $ 1,900 per month. Husband was ordered to pay wife $739 per month, in spousal support. Husband later decided to resign from his executive job and joined a monastery to pursue a life of religious observance. Husband continued to support wife and two adult daughters by paying $875 per month from his savings. Subsequently, Husband’s divorce attorney filed an order to show cause for modification to cease paying his spousal support obligations based on the fact that he no longer drew an income. The divorce court entered a ruling in favor of husband’s divorce lawyer, and reduced his support obligation to zero. Additionally, the divorce court also determined that husband had resigned from his job out of good faith and not to avoid his financial obligations. Wife’s divorce attorney filed a timely appeal.

The Court determined that the divorce court did not abuse their discretion by reducing the spousal support award to zero. The Court explained that a bona-fide motive leading to a change of circumstances may be the basis for reducing spousal support. The Court explained that husband had not quit his job to avoid spousal support payments. Where a spouse claims a change in circumstances based on an improper motivation – of purposefully reducing their earning capacity – a spouse may be ordered to continue paying the spousal support order based on imputed income. The husband left his career without any ill intentions of reducing his support obligations. Thus, the divorce court found in favor of husband’s divorce attorney and reduced his support obligations to zero, for the time he remained unemployed.

In re Marriage of Meegan (1992) 11 Cal. App. 4th 156