Millions of Americans find themselves unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic and shut-down orders affecting non-essential businesses. Many court-ordered child support and alimony payments likely have been impacted as a result, at least temporarily. What can payors and payees do to deal with the present circumstances?
Existing court orders remain in effect unless a judge approves a modification. That said, courts strongly urge divorced couples and co-parents to make every effort to be flexible and to work out reasonable temporary solutions between themselves–particularly now, with courthouses remaining closed to all but emergency in-person hearings. It is a stressful time for everyone and emotions may be heightened; using extra patience and having constructive, ongoing conversations are vital.
If you are owed child support and/or alimony
For the person who depends on child support and/or alimony payments, it is still possible to seek a legal remedy if court-ordered payments are in arrears; some Family Court judges are holding hearings via video conference. If support payments have stopped completely, and documented efforts to work out a solution with the payor have failed, your own income is insufficient, and financial circumstances have become dire, please contact us at 314-449-8830.
If you owe alimony and/or child support
Losing a job due to the pandemic does not automatically entitle someone to a court-ordered reduction in alimony or child support payments. This is in part because any negative change in economic circumstances must be proven to be long-term, not temporary.
If a payor does file to modify their child or spousal support agreement, the judge will request documentation and ask questions to determine:
- That employment termination was involuntary.
- Termination was permanent, not a temporary furlough or lay-off.
- That the payor is not still receiving a paycheck from an employer who was approved for economic stimulus relief under the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP).
- If you worked in a place deemed essential or non-essential under the state, county and/or city’s definition.
- How long the shut-down order will be in effect, if known.
- How the payor’s industry has been impacted as whole, and if other jobs in that field still exist.
- What documented efforts the payor has made so far to find new employment.
- If the payor has any new, documented health issues that are serious enough to affect employment, including testing positive for COVID-19.
- Proof of cutting back on their own living expenses in order to make up the difference in what they owe to support their children or former spouse.
- Whether the payor has filed an unemployment benefits claim. Formerly self-employed, contract and gig workers are now eligible due to the recent benefits expansion. In Missouri, filers are eligible for up to $320 per week, plus $600 in federal funds;
- Whether or not both adults received the $1,200 economic stimulus payment, and how those funds were used.
- Whether either parent has received $500 in economic stimulus relief for each child age 16 or under.
- The employment and health status of the former spouse who receives support payments.
All of us here at Raza & Jones, LLC, understand this is a challenging time for our clients. As a family law firm, under St. Louis County’s Order pertaining to COVID-19 we are considered an essential business, and we will remain open and available to all our clients. The entire firm is working remotely, using our Zoom account to meet with clients or speaking by telephone. We are committed to delivering the same high standard of compassionate, effective representation we’re known for, in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Raza & Jones, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions, or to schedule a confidential consultation, call 314-449-8830.