Our culture today appears obsessed with youth. We attempt to prevent aging with cosmetics, surgeries, vitamins and celery juice. Yet some things we can’t prevent with juice and serums, for example, turning 55 years old and being pushed out of a career because it is believed you don’t think the same way as the millennials. You’re deemed not creative enough because you’re “old”. Perhaps management thinks you’re not “in touch” with the market anymore because your date of birth is before 1975. Indeed, 56 percent of older workers experience at least one involuntary job loss after age 50, according to a new joint analysis from nonprofit newsroom ProPublica and Urban Institute, a think tank that focuses on economic and social policy research.
Now, what happens if you “age out” of a job and you’re not close to the typical age of retirement of 65? More specifically, what if you age out of a job but you’re also under a court-ordered obligation to support your ex-spouse and your minor children?
As family law attorneys, we see this issue come up time and time again. We see parties lose their job through no fault of their own in creative industries simply because they “age out”. And, we see ex-spouses become fearful of the future because they are now dependent on an unemployed, and possibly unemployable, ex-spouse. So, what does this mean in the realm of family law for the payor and payee of support?
Payor of Support
As the payor of support, you are under a court-order to pay a specific sum of support each month. This means that you can’t simply engage in self-help and reduce that number when you lose your job but instead you should undergo the process to modify your support obligation with a new court order. You should also make efforts to get another job so that it’s not believed that you’re shirking your financial obligations to your ex-spouse and children. You might find that your ex-spouse requests that you undergo a vocational examination to assess your employability, i.e. whether you have the ability to work and what opportunities exist in the job market. And, while you may take a request or order for a vocational examination as something punitive from your ex-spouse, try to think of it as free career counseling to assist you in planning the next chapter in your career.
Payee of Support
For the recipient of support, the fact that your ex-spouse has been laid off is likely a terrifying notion. But, if there wasn’t anything nefarious in your ex-spouse’s lay off, you will need to come to terms with the fact that you may be facing a reduction in support. There are, however, some creative remedies that can be worked out with your ex-spouse. Consider whether you can slowly scale down your ex-spouse’s support obligation so you can adjust your finances during this time and in hope that your ex-spouse is re-employed. Perhaps your investments can be managed better thus equating to a greater rate of return on your assets, which in turn would be a source of income for to aid in your own support. Perhaps a vocational evaluation will show that your ex-spouse does have the opportunity and ability to earn at the same level or close to the level of their income before which would allow for imputing (charging) your ex-spouse with an income upon which support would be set. But, maybe most profound and important, is that the recipient of support should never assume support will continue forever and should always consider and work toward being self-supporting in their own right.
And In The End….
Age discrimination in the workplace is a real problem. And the issue is only heightened in the family law world as the age of retirement is recognized at age 65. Until the laws catch up to the patterns in our culture and society, payors and payees of support will need to recognize this issue as a possible problem that may plague those deemed too old for “cool”.