Dr. W, a successful veterinarian and animal surgeon, was divorced from our client, Beverly. Dr. W. was ordered to pay an amount in spousal support commensurate with his earnings, the lifestyle of the parties during the marriage, and other statutory factors.
After the divorce was granted, Dr. W left his Ohio and Pennsylvania veterinary practices and headed off to Florida to be a vet there. This was ill-advised as he did not meet with the economic success that he had here. Dr. W. moved the trial court for a reduction of his spousal support, citing his decreased earnings.
We argued on Beverly's behalf that Dr. W's actions in moving to Florida were voluntary and that she should not suffer as a result of his bad business decisions. The trial court sided with Beverly and ruled that support would not be reduced. In so doing the court stated: "After a thorough review of the Transcript, this Court can only determine that the Defendant [Dr. W] recklessly and on his own lowered his income, which is no basis whatsoever for reduction in spousal support * * *." Dr. W appealed.
"Certainly, this was not an involuntary reduction. The appellant reduced his income so that he could enhance his professional practice. The appellant was contemplating a move to Florida at the time that the separation agreement was executed. Voluntary reduction in income, though it might amount to a substantial change in circumstances, is not justification for a reduction in spousal support payments arising out of a separation agreement and final judgment of a trial court."