(CN) - Taking a lower-paying job to "follow Jesus Christ" does not justify paying less in child support, a state appeals court ruled.
John and Becky Andrews divorced in 2002 after eight years of marriage. The court said John owed $1,496 a month to support the couple's two children.
At the time, he earned a $105,000 annual salary as an engineer. By 2009, his earnings had increased to $172,000 per year.
But John resigned in March 2010 without a new job lined up, telling his employer that he was going to follow Jesus Christ.
He started the New Beginnings Church in Raleigh and served as the senior pastor with a $52,800 salary.
Without health insurance and taking a 70 percent pay cut, John asked for a modification of his child-support obligations.
When the court asked John if he considered his child-support obligations when he changed careers, he replied, "When I considered leaving (my job), my consideration was following Christ and that was all, my obedience to him."
The court agreed to reduce John's obligation to $873 per month, ruling that there was "no evidence of bad faith" in his decision.
But the North Carolina Court of Appeals used John's statement to reach the opposite conclusion on appeal.
"While we do not question the sincerity of the plaintiff's religious beliefs, we cannot equate such justification for his actions with good faith as it pertains to his financial obligations for his children," Judge Robert Hunter wrote for the court.
"Thus, the trial court erred in concluding that plaintiff acted 'in good faith, without a disregard for his child support obligation,' and its order is reversed," Hunter added.