Managing Your Financial Obligation to Pay Child and Spousal Support during Difficult Times
If the court has ordered you to pay child support or spousal support during the pendency of your divorce or as part of your final divorce terms, you are obligated to do so – and are well-advised to do so. If the financial situation you were in at the time these terms were handed down is very different from your current situation, you may have a compelling reason for seeking modified terms, but it is critical that you do so through the court – and thereby make the modification official.
An Agreement between You and Your Ex
If you and your ex are on reasonable terms and they especially understand your financial situation, it may seem only natural to simply come to a mutual agreement regarding your reduced financial obligation to them – either temporary or permanent. However, the fact is that unless you present this modification to the court, it has no legal bearing. This fact means that if your ex has a change of heart on the matter – for any reason – you will remain on the hook for your arrearages and may face penalties. Further, while you may be able to reduce your payments moving forward, you will not be able to do so retroactively. In other words, modifying your financial obligation – whether in the form of child support or spousal support – should always be addressed through the court. Finally, if you and your ex have come to an agreement, you can present your modification to the court. As long as the court finds the terms reasonable and in the best interests of your children, it is very likely to sign off on them.
Our Changing Financial Times
The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed our economic landscape in ways we could not have imagined a year ago. If any of the following have affected your finances, a support modification may be in order:
You work in the hospitality industry, and you have not only lost your job but have few prospects for finding a new one at the same earning level.
You were furloughed due to the pandemic and still have not returned to work full time.
You have taken a pay decrease that makes it very difficult to keep up with your financial obligations as they stand.
Your earnings have not kept up with the increases you expected when your support payments were calculated.
Any one of these could influence the court to reconsider the amount of your support obligations moving forward – at least temporarily. What you should not do, however, is unilaterally reduce your support payments until the court has greenlighted the move.