covid 19 job loss support modification

COVID-19, Job Loss, and Support Modification

Goldberg Jones Child Support, Divorce, Spousal Support Leave a Comment

COVID-19 has a far-reaching impact. This virus continues to damage people’s health, as well as their finances. People have lost their jobs and their businesses.

Others have suffered severe pay cuts to ensure they still have a job in the future. In this area, we field a lot of questions about child support and spousal maintenance.

Support payments often strain finances in the best of times. Right now, many people find it difficult to make ends meet, let alone make these court-ordered payments. But how does the loss of job or income affect your obligations?

The good news is that a significant drop in your finances due to COVID-19 may show the need to modify an existing support agreement. The bad news is that you face an uphill battle.

Not only is this a long, potentially expensive process, even if you do have a claim, but the court is also often reluctant to alter an existing court order immediately.

Related Reading: Divorce and COVID-19

Is There Precedent to Modify Support? 

Yes, it is possible to modify child and spousal support obligations. However, there’s no guarantee of how a judge will rule. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. 

If both parties are on good terms, you can try to settle outside of court. If that isn’t an option, the next step is to file a motion to modify the support order with the local court.

Even now, as things gradually open up, courts in some areas remain closed. If they are open, many operate at a reduced capacity and only for emergencies. Some places allow you to file motions in various ways—by telephone, dropbox, or other methods. You may, however, have to wait to schedule a hearing until the courts reopen. 

Related Reading: Long-Distance Parenting in the Time of COVID-19

What Type of Evidence Is Required? 

Timing is important. COVID-19 remains an open-ended battle. Though things keep moving in the right direction, there’s no saying how much longer we will feel its impact. 

Presenting evidence makes a big difference. When looking to modify a child support or spousal maintenance order, you have to show your work.

Loss of employment or income due to COVID-19 is the starting point. Document everything, right away. This helps build a stronger case to present to the court. A judge will want to see that this was unintentional and out of your control.

Additionally, take steps to alleviate the loss of income. Seek out other jobs or take advantage of unemployment benefits or emergency relief. Again, track all of your efforts. This demonstrates a good faith effort to find new income.

Review Existing Support Order 

It’s always a good idea to take a close look at your existing support order. Many divorcing couples settle support obligations outside of court and maintain them by a separation agreement rather than a court order.

These agreements often contain a material change clause. This allows you to review payments in the event of a change in circumstances. It may include a protocol for modification requests for situations like the loss of a job. In general, it’s a good idea to be well acquainted with these documents.

Related Reading: Your Ex Won’t Follow the Divorce Agreement, What Now?

What if You’re Behind on Support?  

In the United States, if you’re behind on your child support payments, the Division of Child Support must, by law, certify past due child support debts to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement for enforcement.

If you owe back support, they may seize your COVID-19 stimulus check and put it toward what you owe. Depending on the amount, they may take part or all the money.

Even when behind on payments, if COVID-19 caused the delay in payment, you still have the right to argue for modification. Again, you have to show the impact. Demonstrate how the pandemic led to unforeseen and continuing financial devastation. This may serve as evidence to support your claims.

Related Reading: How COVID-19 Affects Custody Arrangements

Keep in Mind 

As stated, individuals struggling financially due to the pandemic should document the impact. Worrying about your health, and the health of your loved ones is a burden. Straining to make child and spousal support payments only adds another layer of stress and hardship.

Collecting evidence to support your claims allows you to be quick and efficient when presenting your case to modify an existing order.

Related Reading: Will Coronavirus Cause a Spike in the Divorce Rate?

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