The Court can attribute to a party his or her earning potential when considering an award of spousal maintenance or child support.  There have been many cases in which one party will voluntarily quit his or her job and thereby reduce his or her income during the divorce process in an attempt to pay less child support and/or spousal maintenance.


In a prior  case, Little v. Little, the Appellate Court upheld the Trial Court’s right to attribute to the Husband his higher earning potential, even though he reduced his income by returning back to school.  The Court held that it was his choice to return to school and take a pay cut, but that this did not change the financial needs of his children. 


In a recent case, Pullen v. Pullen, issued December 24, 2009, the Appellate Court found that the logic in Little v. Little, carries forward into spousal maintenance cases also. 


This is not to say that the Court must or will always set child support and/or spousal maintenance based upon the highest potential income of an individual in all cases.  The Court must take into consideration the reasons for the reduced income, whether voluntary or involuntary, the impact upon the people entitled to support, the conduct of both parties, whether the reduced income was acquiesced to by both parties, and the timing of the reduction of income. 


If you believe that your spouse has improperly reduced his or her income to adversely affect child support and/or spousal maintenance in your case, or if you are being accused of improperly reducing your income and believe that you did so in good faith, please contact an attorney at McGuire Gardner P.L.L.C. for a free initial consultation by telephone to discuss your rights.  To learn more, go to, or visit us at