Does Refusing Overtime Mean I Am Underemployed?
Child support payments are calculated based on the income of the parent responsible for paying it.
When factoring in this payment calculation, many wonder how any overtime and bonuses earned figure into child support structures, if at all. These payments count as income for New Jersey residents and must therefore be factored, though some special circumstances may apply.
How Does the Court View Regular Bonuses?
Many individuals work hard for and anticipate bonuses and overtime, gladly accepting any additional income opportunity. Additionally, performance bonuses and benefits may be periodically expected and anticipated, either given during the holidays or at random.
Depending on your job, these payments may be incremental bonuses, small payouts, or may represent a significant amount. For executives and other high-earning jobs, these bonuses may be worth tens of thousands of dollars. The biggest determining factor for courts lies in the frequency and expectation of these bonuses, to ascertain whether they are guaranteed and, therefore, necessary to calculate into the parent’s overall income.
Although bonuses and overtime are not always guaranteed, they can be considered in child support calculations. Different states have different laws regarding bonuses and overtime, but as a rule of thumb, the larger the bonus, the more likely it will impact your child support payment. For example, New Jersey requires that bonuses and overtime be factored into child support.
What About Irregular Changes in Income?
As previously stated, courts will determine whether the overtime or bonuses received are reasonably expected components of the parent’s income. In some cases, courts may recognize that the child support paying parent’s income fluctuates from time to time and chooses to use their discretion in calculating child support payments without depending on this income. For example, if the bonuses vary or are not decided by the individual’s performance, this could be one exception to the rule. While this is a possibility, it is not an obligation of the court to discern. Each court maintains its own discretion under such circumstances.
The court may consider whether your overtime is regular, guaranteed, or consistent, but even if it is not, it could still be factored into your child support. A common approach in factoring this type of income is to average the bonus and overtime you earned over the years. This, however, is not a requirement by law.
If the courts choose to recognize that bonuses and overtime fluctuate over time, determining the income as not guaranteed, they may modify a child support payment. If the individual’s financial circumstances change, one way or the other, the courts may choose to reassess payment structures again.
And If I Don’t Take Every Opportunity to Work All Overtime Hours Offered?
Recently, in the case of Ferrer v. Colon, both parties were police officers. One of the police officers worked overtime and agreed that the overtime should be utilized to determine income for child support purposes. However, the other party said that the overtime actually worked; there was an offer of even more overtime. The argument was that the additionally offered overtime should be added to the income for the child support calculation purposes.
The court rejected this argument, saying it was only going to use the actual overtime worked. The court found that the police officer was fully employed, and she did not have an obligation to take on additional employment to calculate child support. The court based its decision on what the police officer had earned in the past in overtime.
The court recognized that support obligations must take into account past earnings and the ability to earn. A party is unable to manipulate his or her income to reduce their support obligations improperly. Moreover, a party cannot shield income earned beyond his or her full-time employment from child support calculation. However, this does not mean that a person should be assigned income based on a scenario that is inconsistent with the historical data. Cases are evaluated based on the totality of the evidence, historical and present.
Retain an experienced Linden Child Support Calculation Attorney Today
If you feel that your bonuses and overtime should not be factored into child support, the evidence must be presented to the court. The best way to ensure a favorable ruling is by hiring professional help.
At Edward S. Cooper Law Firm, we are ready and equipped to help you in the entire process. If you live in n Rahway, Clark, Roselle Park, Garwood, Elizabeth, Cranford, Edison, and across New Jersey and face a child support payment calculation you believe is unfair, or if your job situation has recently changed. If you are looking at having your child support payments reevaluated, contact a member of our firm today by calling at 908-481-4625.