Was Income Reduction in Bad Faith?
Mendez v. Mendez, 2021-NCCOA-680 (2021)
- Facts: Plaintiff was ordered to pay defendant $2,271 per month in child support pursuant to a child support order filed in 2015. In 2018, Defendant filed a motion to modify child support. Defendant’s monthly gross income was $3,964. She asserted that the children’s needs have increased with their age, including involvement in new extracurricular activities such as music, fencing, and acting classes. For the initial 2015 order, Plaintiff made much more income. He was a department of defense contractor, owned a business, and VA disability benefits. In 2019, Plaintiff’s VA benefits were increased due to his diagnosis with prostate cancer. In 2018, Plaintiff was admitted to law school and would be attending when his cancer treatments ended. The trial court reduced Plaintiff’s child support obligation due to his decreased income. Defendant appeals.
- Issue: Did the trial court err by not finding that Plaintiff reduced his income in bad faith?
- Rationale: Defendant argued that Plaintiff had hidden his income in bad faith. This meant that there was an intentional disregard to the child support. Behind this intent is the motivation to avoid playing the child support obligation. A party voluntarily decreasing their income does not mean that the party was acting in bad faith. The intent component must also be present. Plaintiff showed to the court his inability to continue his employment as a contractor due to medical issues; his spine had degenerative disc disease and his feet, ankles, knees, hips, and ribs had joint diseases. He showed that his work as a government contractor was a job that required extensive physical strains. He had cancer. Those were the reasons why Plaintiff sought admission to law school. He testified he had no intention of avoiding support for his children and was even continuing to work right up to the start of classes. There was no error.