Here is a factual situation which is not atypical:

Mother pays child support to Father, based upon earnings of $100,000 per year.  Mother loses her job, and takes a lower paying job earning $50,000.   Then she files a Petition to Modify her Support Order.

What are the considerations in a case like this?  A recent Superior Court Opinion, Grigoruk v. Grigoruk, 912 A.2d 311(Pa. Super. 2006), sets forth a concise review of the considerations.  The Court’s discussion includes the following queries which must be resolved:

  • Under Pa.R.C.P. 1910.16-2(d), a party voluntarily accepting a lower paying job is not entitled to a reduction in support.  However, if a parent is fired for cause, the court should look to the party’s attempt to mitigate the lost income in deciding if a reduction in support should be allowed.
  • The court should look to the factual circumstances to determine if the subsequent job search was sufficient.
  • The court should look at the party’s employment immediately prior to the request for modification, and not the highest paying job the parent had 4 years ago.
  • A higher earning capacity may be assigned if the court finds that the reduction in income was the result of a parent’s misguided choice.
  • A parent may accept a lower paying job where it was the only job offered after a reasonable search.
  • A parent does not necessarily have an ongoing duty to mitigate the lost income by conducting an ongoing job search.  However, this also would be a determination based upon the facts.

In this case, the Superior Court relied upon several other cases to support its position, or to distinguish its position, including:

Ewing v. Ewing, 843 A.2d 1282 (Pa. Super. 2004)

Novinger v. Smith, 880 A.2d 1255 (Pa. Super. 2005)

Woskub v. Woskub, 843 A.2d 1247 (Pa. Super. 2004)

Dennis v. Whitney, 844 A.2d 1267 (Pa. Super. 2004)

Baehr v. Baehr, 889 A.2d 1240 (Pa. Super. 2005)

Samii v. Samii, 847 A.2d 691 (Pa. Super. 2004)