Numerous people have been laid off or furloughed throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and this can make it difficult to pay bills and meet other obligations, like alimony, child support payments, and child custody. Divorced parents who are not employed are still required to meet their obligations, and not doing so could lead to being held in contempt of court or being forced to pay out large lump sums. There are legal options that may be pursued for parents who find themselves unable meet these responsibilities.
There are two sides to this problem, and communicating openly about the hardships may help. The paying spouse is legally obligated to pay the ex-spouse, but they may have lost their job through no fault of their own. Others have seen their work hours cut or have had their pay reduced for working the same hours. This can make it hard to pay a mortgage, bills, alimony, child support, and other expenses.
The ex-spouse who receives the alimony and child support payments relies on these funds. It is best to be as honest as possible, and remain calm with the goal of arriving at an acceptable compromise. Some ex-couples may be able to come to some sort of temporary agreement about the payments. They might end up seeking different jobs, sell property, or cut back on living expenses.
What if My Ex-Spouse is Uncompliant?
State laws dictate how alimony and child support payments can be modified, but it is important to take action as soon as possible. In Maryland, this means contacting the court to see if the obligations can be modified or even terminated. Although alimony can be harder to change, child support payment modifications may be issued it if is in the children’s best interest.
Recipients have options as well. If a spouse states that they cannot make the payments, the recipient can first ask them to attempt to get a modification. Should the payor not be open to doing this, the recipient can hold them in contempt of court. Ex-spouses who receive alimony and child support but have lost their jobs can also request modifications to receive extra money.
Can Divorce Agreements be Modified?
In many states, judges modify alimony and child support orders based on changes in circumstances, such as job loss from COVID-19. A skilled family law lawyer can help with post-divorce modifications. While this is getting worked out, the payor spouse should try to make partial payments to the ex-spouse as a show of good faith. Paying cash is not a good idea since it cannot be proven. Some divorced couples can resolve their problems through mediation, but a family law lawyer may be needed to help determine the obligations and to explain the state and local laws. Normal visits with the children should continue, even if no payments are being received.
Child custody can also be impacted by COVID-19. For example, an unemployed parent who lives far away from the child may not be able to afford the gas to make the long drive, or if a parent had to accept a new job with overnight hours, the child will not be able to sleep over. The parent must show that a substantial change in their circumstances has impacted their ability to adhere to the original custody arrangement. The most important element is to make the child’s best interests the priority when considering a custody modification.
How Do I Modify Divorce-Related Agreements?
The standards for alimony, child support payments, and child custody vary, depending on where the ex-spouses lives. Typically, the courts will look at much the income has increased or decreased. They will also want to know about the recipient’s earnings. The child’s financial needs are also important. Other reasons for granting or denying modifications are when one party feels that the original agreement was fraudulent, if one party received an inheritance or other large amount of money, or a recent job loss.
For child support issues in Maryland, divorced parents have the option of going to the county’s child support enforcement office, filing a case on their own, or working with a lawyer. The court may explore alternative financial resources for the divorced couple, and this might involve seeking out loans, advances on inheritances, and lines of credit. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act may also be used to provide financial relief. Another solution might be a temporary reduction in the amount of alimony or child support payments. This could include a required evaluation every few months, and the agreement might be changed during those times.
As an alternative, the payments could be kept at the original rates, but the payor might be granted a break from collection and enforcement efforts. However, the payment deficiencies would accrue as arrears, so the payor would have to pay everything back at a later time. For help with determining the best strategy, a divorcee should speak to a lawyer.
Towson Family Law Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Divorced Couples Struggling with Payments and Child Custody Arrangements
If the pandemic has impacted your alimony, child support, or child custody arrangements, you have legal options. A Towson family law lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can help you if you need to make post-divorce modifications. Call us at 443-589-0150 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.