It is a scenario that plays out over and over again in divorce courts everywhere.
You took care of the home during your marriage while your spouse made the money. When it became clear you were heading for divorce, you discussed your case with a lawyer, who told you that you had a “classic” alimony case.
Then out of the blue, your spouse lost his job. Now, your spouse’s position is that alimony is not appropriate because the money is not there.
If this has happened to you then take action immediately. While most State laws will put a burden on you to prove that your spouse is voluntarily unemployed, the divorce courts provide you with all the tools you need to succeed.
Below are the four steps you must take when your spouse quits his job during divorce.
Pull Your Spouse’s Tax Returns to See Total Income Earned When Working
If you and your spouse filed jointly, then you can pull your tax returns yourself in less than 15 minutes.
Simply google “Pull Tax Transcript”, and click on the IRS website.
You will be prompted to create a username and password on the IRS website, and you will be asked private questions to confirm your identity.
Once complete, you can simply download a PDF of your Record of Account transcript, which will provide all of the information you will need.
If your spouse filed separately, then your attorney will have two options to get the tax returns from your spouse. Preferably, your spouse will simply comply and turn over a copy of the requested returns. If your spouse is being difficult however then it will be easier to have the Court force the Husband to execute an IRS Form 4056-T and go directly to the IRS to pull the statement.
Gather Your Spouse’s Previous Employment Records with a Subpoena
Now that you know exactly what your spouses reported income, you want to dig further into the employment file.
You will be looking for additional income and benefits as well as nature and reasons that your spouse is currently unemployed.
Your attorney can get this information by sending a simple subpoena to your spouses’ former employer requesting his file.
Because unemployment compensation is a real issue for businesses big and small, employers usually thoroughly document the details surrounding an employee’s’ exit.
You are looking for records that show your spouse either left his or her job voluntarily or that the poor performance by your spouse that led to termination coincided with the divorce.
Frequently, the employment file provides slam dunk evidence when a spouse leaves a job to tactically help his or her divorce case.
Gather Your Spouse’s Medical Records
Is your spouse claiming an inability to work for health reasons?
While this is a common tactic in alimony and child support cases, you can swiftly and quickly debunk this claim by requesting authorization for release of medical records.
Simply, you will ask your spouse to sign a document allowing your attorney to pull any and all medical records related to his or her ability to work.
And if your spouse refuses to sign this document, your attorney can ask the Judge to force the signing of the release.
A common tactic to increase leverage is for a spouse to feign ill health and the inability to work. By pulling health records immediately, you can disarm this tactic before you enter settlement negotiations.
Find Job Opportunities and Your Spouses Potential Income
Now that you have gathered your spouse’s’ employment and health records, you need to show the Court the jobs in the community and earning potential available to your spouse.
And while you can certainly gather this evidence yourself, when possible you should hire a vocational expert in your community to prepare an occupation report.
These reports typically do three things:
- First, the expert takes the employment and health records that you and your attorney have gathered and delivers an opinion on your spouse’s ability to work and whether unemployment is voluntary. The best experts are qualified to discuss medical records when giving their opinion. Judges tend to lean heavily on expert opinions in family law.
- Second, the expert finds job openings for your spouse. The expert searches your town and neighboring towns for actual job leads, and then calls the job leads and verifies that your spouse is a fit.
- Finally, the expert draws a conclusion as to the amount of money your spouse is capable of earning in a given year.
These expert reports can be very difficult for your spouse to defend.
A voluntarily unemployed spouse can seriously damage the value of your case unless you take action. While it will require work, you have the tools needed to cut through the gamesmanship and get a fair resolution in your case.