Modifying your support agreement during a pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on millions of Americans’ financial situations. Layoffs, reduced hours, furloughs and business closings have changed people’s economic outlook. It’s also made it hard for people paying child support to meet their obligations and equally hard for child support recipients to cover their expenses. If this sounds like your situation, you should talk to a family law attorney because you may have options.

Your first option is to talk openly and honestly with the other parent and try and negotiate an arrangement while the pandemic is going on. Be reasonable — it’s likely that the other parent has experienced changed circumstances that impact their needs as well. If you can agree ahead of time, you may be able to submit the agreement for the court’s approval.

If you can’t work something out with the other parent, you may have to go to court to seek a modification. In that case, you generally will need to show that you lack the ability and opportunity to earn. When you’re facing this situation, it’s important that you’re actively trying to find another job, regardless of how challenging that might be at this point. This is because a judge will want to see that you’re making a good faith effort to find employment. Be sure to document your efforts so you can demonstrate this to the court.

Finally, if you think you need to file for a modification, it’s important that you do so quickly. Courts around the country have been reopening at different rates and it’s likely they’ll be jammed with business that’s been backed up for months. In many states, it may be a while before your case is resolved, but by filing for the modification you may be able to get it to apply retroactively.

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