The spread of COVID-19 has caused many states across the nation to mandate stay-at-home orders, which requires all residents to self-isolate within their homes and temporarily closes all non-essential businesses. This has triggered thousands of layoffs, with Vox reporting that in the last six weeks, there have been more than 30 million unemployment claims filed, overwhelming the already congested system. Job and income loss can make it hard for spouses to keep up with alimony or child support payments during this time. If you or your former spouse experience job loss as a result of the pandemic, and there are alimony and child support provisions in your separation agreement, you may be able to modify the spousal and child support payments.
According to the NY Daily Record, law firms have seen a dramatic increase in child and spousal support inquiries during the COVID-19 crisis. Due to the loss of income, those dealing with the issue are exploring their options for modifying spousal and child support payments. Legal experts claim one way they can seek relief is by filing a motion in court to try and modify or terminate spousal or child support, at least until the person is back on their feet. Spousal support may be difficult, if not impossible, to modify. For child support, the court always retains jurisdiction to modify and if you lost your job and income, the court can review that information and determine whether the current support order remains in the children’s best interest during this time.
A court order for child or spousal support continues until it is modified or terminated, according to Divorce Net. That means your payment will still be due regardless of your current situation, however, there are things you can do to protect yourself if you find yourself unable to pay the support. Last month, the Judicial Council of California issued emergency rules to address how the California courts will operate under the state’s statewide emergency order, including issuing emergency rule 13. Under the rule, the court can order a modification to a prior support order retroactive to the date the request is mailed to the other party. This ensures that those whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic can get relief as close as possible to their loss of income.
If you were affected by the pandemic and believe you may be unable to pay the amount of spousal or child support due to lost income, it’s important to file a request for modification right away and not wait until the crisis has passed. Until there is an official change in your support order, it is important that you pay as much as is possible, otherwise you may be found to be in contempt of court.
Written by Debra Schoenberg