After months of backups in the US court system due to the pandemic, people are finally re-entering their courtroom cases—albeit virtually, in most cases—to move forward with everything from divorce settlements to custody battles. As people play catch-up, many are bringing concerns to the docket over the impact of the economic conditions on their ability to pay their usual child support or alimony. Modification requests for these payments are increasing as people face unemployment and economic uncertainty.
So what do the courts say about making pandemic-related modifications to support, or modifications during any economic crisis, for that matter?
The following are potential scenarios that could be cited as reasons to modify support during the pandemic:
- Loss of a job or reduced hours
- Illness resulting in expensive medical bills
- Shifts in a custody schedule
Slow re-opening means slower judgement on cases
For one, the process is delayed because of the backups from the closures. This means if you’re currently struggling to pay your support, it can be a long wait before a judge actually hears your case.
Furthermore, you’ll have to provide strong supporting evidence to prove you’re in financial dire straights, which you’ll likely need legal representation to fully vet and make sure is enough.
For these reasons, the best approach for now may be to arrive at an agreement with your ex-spouse outside of court for the time being. Presenting them with a sincere case for doing the modification, even if temporarily, is completely workable if both parties can cooperate. Getting it in writing is the best bet; a lawyer can examine it to make sure it’s solid.
The pandemic demands flexibility of everyone, and because of its unprecedented nature, it may require innovation and cooperation when legally bound arrangements become more difficult. Talk to an attorney to find out the best way to approach your situation.