By Jadelyne Long
Litigation Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
Companies are laying off and furloughing employees across the county, with those furloughed unsure that they will be employed after the stay-at-home order is lifted in their state. These are common concerns many of our clients at Cordell & Cordell have presented us with due to the COVID-19 crisis.
With these worries, they may not have jobs to return to and consequently, they will not be able to pay their child support and/or alimony obligations. The unemployment rates in the past month have skyrocketed, all due to COVID-19.
If you are experiencing any of this, know that you have options, and we are here to help. Keep in mind that I am licensed in the state of Florida, so any tips are based on my legal experiences in that state.
I was furloughed from my employer for the next few months and cannot make payments during this time. What do I do?
Unfortunately, your child support and/or alimony obligations do not automatically stop if you can no longer afford to pay them. Additionally, if you do not pay child support, you can be held in contempt of court, your driver’s license can be suspended, you might be ordered to pay a purge amount or lump-sum payment, or a warrant can be issued for your arrest. These obligations continue unless and until they are modified by a court order.
If you are experiencing hardship and an inability to pay your child support or alimony obligation contact a family law attorney, like those at Cordell & Cordell. An attorney can help you with navigating your options to protect your interests in court.
The courts still are open and remotely conducting hearings. A motion can be filed requesting for a temporary abatement or hold, of your obligations during this time. You still should pay what you can during this time to show the court that you are making a good faith attempt to pay and not completely avoiding your court ordered obligation. If you can pay something, do it.
I was laid off from my job and cannot make the support obligations. I have applied for unemployment. What can I do?
To change or modify your obligation you must show a substantial change in the circumstances that were not foreseen at the time the original agreement or order was entered. If your circumstances become permanent and you are laid off, you can seek to modify your child support and/or alimony obligation by filing for a modification. However, the request for the modification only can be made from the time you filed for the modification.
Therefore, any changes cannot be retroactively made to the day you filed for the modification. For example, if you lost your job last month, but wait two months to file for a modification, the court only can modify your payments from the date you filed the modification, even though your income significantly was reduced two months prior.
Again, it always is suggested that you pay what you can, even if that means a portion of your unemployment income. Unemployment compensation also is considered income for purposes of calculating child support. You also should make an attempt to seek new employment and maintain record keeping of all job applications submitted as proof of your efforts.