This question comes up a lot. More than it should. And while you might think that men are the ones asking (threatening?), in my experience, women do it too.
As an aside, I was initially surprised to observe the trend in families where “traditional” roles have been reversed (eg, women are the primary breadwinners and men are the primary caretakers of the children) that “traditional” positions and arguments in divorce also reversed. It’s interesting to see a woman faced with the possibility of paying alimony to her ex. Or to note a common feeling that if a mother stays at home she is raising the kids but if a father stays at home he is just lazy. We’ve all come a long way, baby. I say all of this to make the point that it could be either a man or woman who considers quitting their job to avoid a family support obligation.
While it’s true in Georgia that child support and alimony are calculated based on income, simply ending (or drastically reducing) yours won’t erase your obligations. Worse, attempting to hide your true earnings will likely lead to disaster.
In Georgia, if you are “willfully or voluntarily unemployed or underemployed” the court will “ascertain the reasons” for your “occupational choices” and “assess the reasonableness of these choices” in light of your “responsibility to support [your] child.”
Divorce judges and lawyers have been around the block a few times. I recall one judge marvelling from the bench: “I’ve never had anyone come in to divorce court and tell me that their business is earning more this year than it did last year. In fact, almost everyone tells me that they’ve suffered a recent downturn.” You can see how significant changes to your income will raise suspicion. And frankly, you never want the judge to be too focused on your income. You have a problem when that happens.
In Georgia, alimony will be set “in accordance with … [your] ability … to pay.” Official Code of Georgia, § 19-6-1 (c) (2015 Edition). Ability to pay is most often based on your income. Similarly, if you are “willfully or voluntarily unemployed or underemployed” the court will “ascertain the reasons” for your “occupational choices” and “assess the reasonableness of these choices” in light of your “responsibility to support [your] child.” Official Code of Georgia, § 19-6-15 (f)(4)(D) (2015 Edition). That doesn’t sound too promising, does it?
Your capacity to earn will determine your ability to pay and if you have had a recent change, then it will be based on your history of earnings, educations, skills and experience. If the judge determines that you have intentionally acted to eliminate or reduce your income, woe unto you. Most likely, they have heard it before and didn’t buy it.
Even these great reasons could not find sympathy in Georgia’s courts:
*Incarceration. You cannot escape your obligations, even if you are imprisoned. “We see no reason to offer criminals a reprieve from their  obligations when we would not do the same for a person who voluntarily walks away from his job.” Staffon v Staffon, 277 Ga. 179 (2003).
*Called to Serve the Lord. The court has “no authority to relieve [you] of [your] obligations, even for the worthy purpose of entering the ministry.” Stiltz v Stiltz, 236 Ga. 308 (1976).
*Seeking a College Degree. If you quit your job to pursue “scholarly endeavors on a full time basis” the court can decide that you are “not relieved of [your] obligations to support [your] children. If [you have] the capacity to labor, [you] must do so for [your] children’s support, and, if reluctant, may be compelled by the courts to do so.” Pierce v. Pierce, 241 Ga 96 (1978).
As you can see, voluntarily reducing your income, even for a really good reason, is no guarantee that you will avoid a family support obligation. Unfortunately, you will have better luck if you are unable to work due to:
*Failing Health. If a decline in health has been significant enough to reduce your prospects for continued employment, then you might be more successful. Butterworth v Butterworth, 228 Ga. 277 (1971).
Authored by Cynthia L. Patton, Esq. This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult an attorney for specific legal advice.