CoronaVirus (COVID-19) Left Me Unable to Pay Child Support or Alimony
A court order for child support or alimony continues until it is modified or terminated. That means your payment is still technically due regardless of your current situation. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself if you find yourself unable to pay.
Because of Covid-19 were you laid off from your job? Did a large portion of your employment compensation come from RSU's (retention stock unites) which have been negatively affected by the huge drop in the stock market? Are you the owner of a small business and currently not making any money because of social distancing, quarantine, and non-essential business closures?
Depending on the extent of your financial loss and/or change in your financial resources or employment status, a modification may be appropriate. Contact us to discuss your specific circumstances.
Financial Effects of Coronavirus On Child Support and Alimony
With the coronavirus causing business shutdowns, social distancing, and quarantines across the country, a massive jump in unemployment is inevitable. With these financial losses comes an increasing demand for reductions in child support and alimony orders across the country.
We are being inundated with clients asking:
“I don't have the money to meet my monthly child support and/or alimony obligations, what do I do?”
“Am I facing the possibility of jail time for non-payment?”
Or in the alternative, “My ex just informed me that he/she lost his/her job and won't be making their child support and/or alimony payment this month, what do I do?
How Can My Order for Child Support be Modified Because of The Coronavirus?
An order for child support is eligible for a modification review every three years, or when there is a material change in circumstances such as a significant change in the needs of the child or in the paying parent's income. Modification is initiated by filing a petition requesting that the existing order be reduced / increased and describing the material change that has occured justifying the requested modification.
If you are affected by the Coronavirus and unable to make your child support payments it is important to file a petition for modification right away - do not wait until the crisis has passed! In most states a retroactive modification of child support is only allowed to go back to the date that the request for modification was filed.
Meaning, if you wait a few months until the crisis has passed to file your petition for modification, then even if the court grants your request and modifies the amount, that lower amount would only reduce your payment obligations for the date after the petition was filed.
Additionally, you would have a better argument to the court that those past payment obligations should be lowered as well (not just your payments going forward) if you filed a petition as soon as the financial hardship occurred but do to no fault of your own the courts were closed and therefore unable to make the modification at that time. That is a good faith argument that the court is likely to respond favorably to.
How to Prove Your COVID-19 Change in Circumstance And Lower Child Support Obligation
Because the Coronavirus' effects on the economy are so prevalent and well-known, convincing a judge that the virus has caused a material change in circumstance may be easier than usual. Often, people requesting that their child support payments be lowered are faced with a certain level of suspicion. However, if the Coronavirus caused job or business losses, or reduced your income, the judge may not have much trouble believing you.
That being said there are some things you should start doing right away to place yourself in the best position possible to prove your change in circumstance and lower your child support obligations to the court after the crisis has passed:
- Communicate: This is an unprecedented time in our lives and everyone is navigating this new reality day by day. Communicate with your ex as soon as you learn of your job / business loss so he/she knows not to rely on that money coming in while he/she makes his/her own plans for dealing with this national crisis. Document your communications and try to reach a temporary alternate agreement with regards to payments while you look for new employment.
- Be Proactive: Normally when an individual loses their job or has a decrease in income the Court will request proof that the person is actively looking for alternate means of employment / income. While a lot of people may not be hiring at this time, do your best to put your resume out there and apply for jobs (and document these efforts) to show the court you did everything in your power to meet your obligation.
- Make a Good Faith Effort: This is the name of the game and what the courts will be hoping to see! You are much less likely to be penalized for not making payments if you can show that you made a good faith effort to ensure the other party was notified right away so they could make plans and that you did everything in your power to make the payments. If you can pay something towards your obligation, do it. The Courts will consider whether a good faith attempt was made to pay a portion of your obligation and will look at your finances to determine if you had the ability to do so. While you may not have the ability to pay 100% of your obligation because your income has decreased or you have lost your job, an effort to pay something during these times will likely not go unnoticed by the court and will definitely work in your favor.
- Document: Make sure to document everything you do so your lawyer can use it when you finally do go to court.
How Will The Court React to My Coronavirus Child Support Situation?
This is an unprecedented situation and while there is no way to know for sure how the Courts are going to be dealing with it, we will keep you updated as information is relayed to us.
If you are unable to pay your child support or alimony due to a loss of income because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), please do not hesitate to contact our office for a free consultation.
Note: If you begin to receive unemployment compensation, your child support obligation may be withheld from the benefits.