opening paycheck envelopThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing alimony or spousal support awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. The previous post explained the discretion granted to Nevada courts in determining whether or not alimony should be awarded and, if so, the length of time and appropriate amount. The decisions are based on the facts of each couple’s specific situation. This post will address the underemployment of a spouse and how being underemployed may impact a court’s spousal support decision. The topic of alimony can become contentious during a divorce proceeding. I cannot overemphasize the importance of retaining an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the process. If you are in need of assistance, contact my office today to speak to a lawyer.

As discussed in the previous post, one factor considered by a judge in determining spousal support is the financial position of each party at the end of the marriage. A large disparity in income between the spouses may lead to a decision that ongoing support should be granted to the lower earning spouse. On the other hand, if both spouses are equally situated, the court may find that no support is required. This analysis may be impacted, however, if one party demonstrates that the other is “underemployed.” Under Nevada law, a person is underemployed when he or she chooses to earn a wage that is less than commensurate with their skill level. Being voluntarily underemployed is often a tactic used by those who want to skew the analysis to reduce their support obligations.

Under normal economic conditions, the court will evaluate several factors to determine whether someone is underemployed. These include the person’s reasons for changing employment, education level, work experience, health issues and attempts to find similar employment. If someone changes careers due to extreme stress or health concerns, a court may decide the change in employment is a valid and not intentional underemployment. Simply quitting a job and failing to seek alternative equivalent employment without any documented reason could, conversely, be viewed as voluntary underemployment.

If a court decides one spouse is underemployed, the court will use that spouse’s potential earnings as the basis for support instead of their actual lower earnings. For example, suppose a wife has been employed as a pediatrician for 20 years while her husband has been a stay-at-home dad, working part-time in a bookstore. Just before she files for divorce, she quits her practice and takes a job at a local clothing store. During the divorce hearing, she refers to her significantly reduced salary to persuade the court that she should not be obligated to pay alimony. If found to be purposefully underemployed after reviewing the specific facts, the court may elect to base the support award on her potential physician salary.

If you are going through a divorce and believe your spouse is purposely underemployed, it is essential to engage an experienced Las Vegas family law attorney to represent your interests. My firm is dedicated to family law and can assist you. Contact my office today to schedule a consultation with a lawyer.