Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 89-5-02810-8. Date filed: 07/16/93. Judge signing: Hon. Larry Jordan.
PER CURIAM -- John McKay, appearing pro se, appeals an increase in his child support obligation and a finding that he is voluntarily underemployed for the purpose of reducing that obligation. This court remanded the matter for entry of written findings and Conclusions, but retained jurisdiction to avoid additional delay. The findings and Conclusions have been entered and are now before the court.
Because the trial court's findings are supported by substantial evidence, and because the court did not err in failing to require clear and convincing evidence of McKay's underemployment and his purpose in becoming underemployed, we affirm.
John McKay is the biological father of Ian Salmon McKay, born on October 7, 1987. Robyn Ricks is the boy's mother.
McKay has a Ph.D. in molecular and developmental biology and worked at the University of Washington as a research biologist for over 10 years. As a research biologist, he earned $27,000 in 1988, $28,000 in 1989, and $29,000 in 1990. However, he was involuntarily terminated by the University in the summer of 1991 for poor performance. *fn1
Later that summer, the superior court entered a paternity decree declaring McKay to be Salmon's father and ordering him to pay child support of $400 per month, including $200 for basic support and $200 for daycare costs. McKay was unemployed at the time of the decree and receiving $270 per week in unemployment. The decree provided for review of child support upon his employment.
On December 2, 1992, McKay was hired by Geneva Systems as a computer programmer. Two days later, McKay filed a petition to modify child support. He stated his gross monthly income at his new job was $866.68.
He also stated that he had unsuccessfully applied for "many dozens" of jobs in biology in the previous year. He believed his career in science was over due to basic incompetence. Regarding his new job, McKay stated he believed he had some aptitude in computers, but even so, he experienced tremendous difficulty obtaining his current position.
Robyn Ricks opposed modification of child support. Arguing that McKay was voluntarily underemployed, she urged the court to impute income to him of $2,068, the median net income for a 46-year-old male as set forth in the Washington State Child Support Schedule.
On January 20, 1993, a court commissioner filed a temporary order setting child support at $150 per month.
Following a contested hearing on affidavits, Judge Larry Jordan entered an order modifying child support. The court did not enter written findings at that time, but did so after a remand from this court. The court found that McKay's income should be imputed at $1,600 per month because he is voluntarily underemployed for the purpose of reducing his support obligation.
Regarding its finding of voluntary underemployment, the court noted the lack of documentary support for McKay's alleged effort to find a job in the biological field. The court stated that it "[did] not accept Mr. McKay's unsupported statements as true." The court further noted that McKay's current job is "inconsistent with his work history" and that he has the "education and health and work experience to obtain employment in the field of biology or in a related field."
With respect to its finding that McKay is underemployed for the purpose of reducing his support obligation, the court found that his "stated purpose of changing careers because of his inability to find employment in the general field of biology is not supported by any credible or persuasive evidence." The court also found that "McKay voluntarily sought a position paying near minimum wage knowing that his net income would be at or near the poverty level, thereby reducing his child support obligation."
The court ordered McKay to pay basic child support of $275 per month, in addition to 48 percent of daycare ...