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The Impact of COVID-19 on Alimony and Child Support Payments

The Impact of COVID-19 on Alimony and Child Support Payments

 

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has disrupted many lives. The downsizing and closing of businesses across the country resulted in thousands of Americans losing their jobs. These economically uncertain times can present legal challenges if you have been court-ordered to pay or receive alimony or child support.

 

If you took a pay cut, reduced your hours, or lost your job due to the pandemic, it is important to know whether these changes in your income could affect your alimony or child support payments.

 

Modifying Support Payments

 

In Maryland, a court can revise alimony or child support if you can show that a material chance in circumstances occurred since the entry of your final divorce decree. A decrease in your income, whether you are the party paying (the “payor”) or receiving (the “payee”) alimony, could constitute a material change, particularly if the decrease in income was not your fault.

 

Maryland state and local governments closed or substantially limited many businesses’ operations due to the COVID-19 quarantine. If the pandemic negatively impacted your job, modification of alimony or child support might be an option.

 

It is important to know that in Maryland, only certain types of alimony may be modified or terminated.  Whether alimony could be adjusted due to the pandemic depends on how the alimony is structured in a marital settlement agreement or divorce decree.  Your attorney will know whether your alimony is subject to modification, and if so, how to how to seek a court review in your case.

 

 

What Do I Do if I am Earning Less?

 

If you have been court-ordered to pay alimony or child support, any decrease in your income can make it difficult, if not impossible, to meet all of your expenses. You might have to choose between paying the alimony or child support and paying other necessary bills like your mortgage, car payment, or health insurance. If you are the payee and your ex is not meeting their obligation, it can be equally challenging to stay afloat financially.

 

If you find yourself on either side of this equation, it is important to address the matter as soon as possible. There are several ways to deal with the financial complications brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Communicate with the Other Party

 

If you and your ex can speak civilly, open the lines of communication and discuss your current financial circumstances. You may be able to compromise and avoid going to court. If so, your lawyer can draft a legally binding document that protects your interests during the pandemic.

 

Have Your Lawyer Intervene

 

If you and your former spouse have a contentious relationship or disagree on the best way to handle the alimony or child support, consult your attorney. A lawyer from our firm could propose a temporary financial arrangement to offset the impact of the pandemic and negotiate directly with your ex or their attorney.

 

File a Motion to Modify

 

You may need court intervention if you and your former spouse cannot agree even after the attorneys have stepped in. Despite the pandemic, most Maryland courts are slowly reopening and operating as close to normal as possible. Your attorney can file the necessary pleadings and request a hearing on the alimony or child support.

 

How Will a Court Handle My Request?

 

Because the COVID-19 crisis is so unique, there is no specific guidance in Maryland regarding how the courts will rule on pandemic-related request to modify alimony and child support. However, two outcomes are likely under the current law.

 

Temporary Reduction

 

A court could grant a temporary reduction in alimony or child support and set a review date for your case. If you and your ex’s respective incomes have returned to normal by that time, the support payments could revert to the original amount.

 

Suspending Enforcement Proceedings

 

The court could keep the support payments the same but suspend enforcement and collection efforts. Any missed payments could be made payable at a later date. This would allow you to pay less during the COVID-19 crisis if you are the payor. If you are the payee, this could ensure that you still receive all the payments you are entitled to under the court order.

 

Our Attorneys Can Help

 

If your job has been negatively impacted by COVID-19, contact your attorney. Kim, Matt, or Elissa can discuss options with you and try to reach a settlement with your ex. If you and the other party cannot agree on how to address support payments during this pandemic, your attorney can seek the court’s assistance on your behalf. Call our firm today to schedule an appointment, we are fully operational via phone consults and video conferencing.

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