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Olberding Law Office Oct. 31, 2009

In THE MARRIAGE OF RENEE M. TRIMBLE AND JOHN A. TRIMBLE, the custodial parent (Renee) moved with her children to a new home four hours away. The non custodial parent (John) took a new job that would allow him to maximize his visitation with his children.  The new job paid significantly less than his old job did and John went to court to try and lower his child support. John’s request to lower his support was denied by the trial court and the Court of Appeals.

The Trimble court found that John’s reduction if income was voluntary and thus not sufficient reason to reduce his child support. When John appeal the trial court’s ruling, he argued that his job change was not voluntary but was due to his desire to have as much time with his children as possible. The Court of Appeals in upholding the trial court never ruled if Johns change of jobs was voluntary or not. In fact, the Court of Appeals said his argument might be correct. However, the Court of Appeals ruled that since John testified that he expected his income to rise in the future; the reduction he in income he had experienced was not permanent and so there was no change in circumstances justifying a modification. One other point the Court of Appeals and the trial court found was that before John quit his job he never asked Renee if they could change the visitation pick up and drop off times to accommodate his work schedule. Although this is only mentioned in passing, the fact that it is mentioned at all is significant. It appears the fact that John maybe could have kept his old job if he tried working with Renee to accommodate, but did not even try, worked against him.

However, Bradley Smith was able to get his child support set at a lower rate even though he quit his job to take one that paid $8,000.00 less per year in the case IN RE THE INTEREST OF BRADEN JAMES VASKE. Brad worked a job at a plant that was on a 24 hour rotating shift. The new job’s hours were eight to five and one that “allowed him to use his college degree”. It also allowed him more time to be with his child. For those reasons and some medial problems that may have been tied to working a rotating shift, the Court of Appeals upheld using the lower income when calculating support.

One difference between the two cases was that Trimble was a modification of previously ordered support and Smith was the initial determination. Also, there were no comments in the Smith case that Brad had done anything that was unreasonable or had not taken an action that could have avoided the problem, unlike John Trimble.

Is there a lesson in all of this? Probably many, but, I think one lesson that can be taken away is always take the high road and take the extra step to resolve the problem before turning to the courts. Being reasonable may not get you anywhere with your ex and by itself it is not enough to win a case; but, it never hurts to show the judge that you tied to do the right thing and the other side was unreasonable.