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Olmstead v. Ziegler

Supreme Court of Alaska
42 P.3d 1102 (2002)


William Olmstead (plaintiff) and Elizabeth Ziegler (defendant), both attorneys, were married for approximately five years. When they divorced in December 1994, Olmstead agreed to pay for the child’s daycare and educational expenses. Otherwise, the parties agreed that neither would pay child support to the other. At the time of the divorce, Olmstead was making $53,000 per year and Ziegler was making $25,000. Over the next several years, Ziegler’s income increased and Olmstead’s decreased. He became a solo practitioner after a law partner left the partnership on account of Olmstead’s lack of productivity. Olmstead gradually decreased his workload. In March 1999, he decided to close his practice and go back to school to become a teacher. In June 1999, Olmstead petitioned the court for a reduction in his child support obligation on the basis of decreased income. He asserted that he was a failure at practicing law. By this time, the child was no longer in daycare and attended public school. Olmstead paid approximately $80 per month in support. The court denied Olmstead’s petition, reasoning that his underemployment and decision to change careers was voluntary. Olmstead appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Fabe, C.J.)

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