Can a Judge Force You to Work? Answers for Massachusetts Parents Facing Divorce
Many parents going through a divorce in Massachusetts worry about what a family court judge can and cannot order them to do. One common question is whether a judge can force a parent to get a job or work more hours. The short answer is no, a Massachusetts judge cannot directly order you to work. However, the judge can take employment and income into consideration when making orders about child support, alimony, and division of assets.
How might a judge handle employment issues in a divorce case? Here are some examples:
Imputing Income: If one parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the judge can "impute" income to that parent. This means assuming an income higher than what the parent is actually earning. The imputed income amount would be based on what that parent could reasonably earn, given their skills, education, and experience. The imputed income is then used to calculate child support and possibly alimony.
Modifying Existing Orders: If already ordered to pay child support or alimony, a parent who loses their job or takes a pay cut can file a complaint asking the court to modify the orders based on the substantial change in circumstances. The judge may adjust the payment amounts accordingly.
Considering Earning Capacity: When dividing marital property or assets, a judge can consider each spouse's ability to acquire future income and assets. So even if a parent does not currently have a job, the judge may look at their earning potential.
Requiring Job Search Efforts: As a condition of modifying support orders or continuing existing payments, a judge can require the unemployed or underemployed parent to provide proof they are actively looking for a new or better job.
The bottom line is that while a family court judge cannot force you to take a specific job, your employment situation can impact various rulings related to support, property division, and more. That is why it is critical to be honest about income and work efforts during the divorce process. Contact us if you have concerns about what a judge may require regarding employment.
Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers should not act upon any information provided without seeking professional legal counsel. The author does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.