There is no denying the upheaval caused by COVID-19. Lockdowns have left many adults either out of work or forced to work at home. With children learning remotely, both working and non-working parents have had to change their routines to watch children and help with schooling during the day.
For separated or divorced parents, the pandemic has caused dramatic changes to incomes, living situations, and the ability to share custody and/or co-parent as they did before. This, in turn, may have had an impact on legal arrangements for alimony and child support for some families.
Whether they are currently going through a divorce or the process was complete before the pandemic struck, many couples are having discussions about what the changes that related to COVID-19 will mean for alimony arrangements. What are the considerations, given the current state of affairs, and what can you do if compliance with an existing court order simply is not possible?
Change to Finances
At the height of the pandemic, amid stay-at-home orders, over 22 million Americans lost their jobs, and many workers were furloughed or had their hours cut. Unprecedented numbers of people were able to receive unemployment compensation, but even with added payments from federal and/or state stimuli, this might not have been enough to make up for lost wages.
The pandemic may have reduced your ability to make court-ordered spousal support or alimony payments. Unfortunately, job loss has never been a valid reason to simply stop making those payments.
Although it is possible to work out delayed or reduced payments with an amicable ex, this is not the best idea from a legal standpoint, as you are still legally obligated to make court-ordered payments. The best thing to do in this situation is to file a petition with the court to modify the existing support order, due to a substantial change in your financial circumstances.
Standard of Living Changes
If one or both parties has suffered a change to living standards as a result of unemployment, furlough, or other causes from the pandemic, there could be a valid argument for reducing alimony payments. Again, you’ll have to file a petition with the court to ask for an adjustment.
Changes to Child Custody, Visitation, or Support
Typically, child support is separate from any court-ordered alimony or spousal support payments, but there are situations in which both spousal and child support payments are grouped together in a marital settlement or judgment.
In some cases, you may be able to address both alimony or spousal support and child support payments at the same time, but you might also have to file for separate hearings if you have lost a job, suffered from reduced income, or faced other circumstances that would require adjusted payments.
Complicated financial or custody arrangements are not limited to the pandemic, but changes to employment, living circumstances, and other aspects of daily life have certainly been significant since the spread of COVID-19 began. If you find that these changes have had an impact on your ability to comply with a court order, you should find a reputable family law practice to help you address your concerns.
Bleecker Family Law is a diverse law firm committed to advocacy, compassion, and exceptional support for every client. Contact us today to request a consultation and to learn more about our services.