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You can’t stop being a pharmacist to become a doctor, according to Ilas. But you can quit being a sales executive to become a priest, according to Meegan. Where Ilas quit to go to medical school, here Patrick Meegan quit his job to begin the five year unpaid process of becoming a Catholic priest so the court used his actual income and his spousal support owed to Elizabeth Meegan was set to zero.
The Ilas court disagreed with the Meegan court in finding that Patrick Meegan was acting in good faith, so they could not use earning capacity instead of actual income. To be clear, bad faith is not necessary to use imputed income, but it does push the court in that direction. The court is not required to use earning capacity for support calculations, but has the discretion to use it in appropriate cases.
Since Patrick Meegan wasn’t trying to avoid his support obligations in joining the priesthood, Elizabeth Meegan had the means to support herself and knew about his intention to join the priesthood before their separation, the court did not use earning capacity and set his support to zero. This case really shows that the trial court can decide to use or not use the imputed income analysis as it sees fit.