The economy has taken a hit as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The spreading virus and the subsequent shut-in orders have led to millions of people suffering from reduced income, cut hours, furloughs, and layoffs. Unemployment filing rates have skyrocketed, reaching at least 22 million by early April. If you are required to pay child support during this time and you are struggling to make ends meet while continuing your obligation, you have options. Continue reading for suggestions on how to handle your child support obligation during these tough times, and call a dedicated Englewood child support attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.
Talk to Your Ex
If you are unable to keep paying your monthly child support, it is worth reaching out to your former spouse or co-parent to see if you can reach a new agreement. This is not always easy: Emotions can run high during and after a divorce, and it can be difficult to swallow your pride. If you are truly unable to meet your obligation, however, you need to express that to the child support recipient.
Ideally, you can come to an agreement to reduce your child support obligation or even hold off on payments for the time being. Your ex might agree to reduced payments for a set period of time, rather than modifying your agreement forever, and agree to revisit the issue in a few months or when you are able to get your income back up again. Be flexible, and understand that you might not get as much as you would like–your co-parent is likely struggling financially, too.
Petition the Court
If you cannot reach an agreement with your former spouse or another co-parent, you may need to seek relief from the court. Child support orders can be modified if a party demonstrates they have experienced an unexpected change in circumstances that affect their ability to pay. Significant loss of income, such as if a party has been let go from their job, is a classic change in circumstance sufficient for a child support modification. Judges are human beings, and they are aware of the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.
The court will look beyond your income to evaluate your ability to pay. If you have a brokerage account, savings, or other liquid assets, such that you could reasonably keep paying despite your drop in income or the assets’ drop in value, the court might order you to keep paying. Also, keep in mind that unemployment benefits count as income. If you can afford child support by cutting into your unemployment check, the court will ask you to do so.
Note that New Jersey courts are operating differently during the pandemic. They are closed for most in-person matters, but they are conducting hearings and other proceedings via teleconference or videoconference. If you and your attorney need to appear at a hearing on your petition for modification, it will likely be a remote appearance.
Unfortunately, you can also expect delays–it may take longer than usual for the court to schedule the hearing or for the court to reach a decision and issue a modification. Until you get an order to the contrary, you must continue to comply with your current obligation as best you are able. Talk to your attorney about petitioning the court and what to expect from a modification hearing.
Help With Child Support and Alimony Issues from Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorneys
If you are dealing with child support, alimony, divorce, or other New Jersey family law issues, call the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151 for help today.