In Pennsylvania, the law regarding the modification of a parent’s child support obligation exists in part to protect the parent receiving support from being left footing the bill for all child care expenses in such cases. When the paying parent quits a job or takes a lower paying job for the purpose of decreasing support, or gets fired because of their own poor conduct, Pennsylvania law considers this a “voluntary reduction” in income. Under these circumstances, the parent requesting a decrease in their support obligation must first demonstrate that they did not decrease their income for the purpose of seeking a decreased child support payment. This is not to say that there are not valid reasons why a parent would take a lower paying job, such as for health reasons or to care for a sick family member, for instance. The Court, however, will review a parents’ voluntary reduction in income with quite a bit of scrutiny to protect the best interests of the child.
Once the paying parent has demonstrated that they have not taken a voluntary loss in income to avoid their support obligation, absent some unusual circumstances, that parent will likely be required to mitigate or make efforts to make up for the income that they lost before a reduction is granted. In such cases, Pennsylvania Courts will continue to determine the paying parents’ support payment according to their “earning capacity” and not by their actual earnings. Until the paying parent can show that they have made significant efforts to account for the voluntary loss in income, that parent will most likely be obligated to continue paying the same amount they were paying before the voluntary loss. This is because both parents have an absolute obligation to support their children financially and the law recognizes the fact that the child should not suffer because of a parents’ poor judgment or irresponsibility.