Over the past couple of months, many people in Auburn and throughout Alabama have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak. COVID-19 resulted in the closure of countless “nonessential” businesses, and although things are opening back up, widespread economic damage has already been done, and many businesses will end up closing permanently because of this pandemic.
Nonessential business closures have resulted in millions of individuals throughout the nation becoming unemployed, making it very difficult to provide for even their most basic needs. And for a lot of people in the Auburn area with child support obligations, coming up with the required support payments has been extremely difficult, and in many cases, impossible.
What Happens if I Can’t Pay My Child Support because of a Coronavirus-Related Income Loss?
When a child support order has been issued by a court, it must be adhered to. That is the law, and there are severe consequences if the required payments are not made. But what if you can’t come up with the payments because you have lost your income (or it has been significantly reduced) because of COVID-19? There is a remedy for that, known as a child support modification.
Under Alabama law, a parent can modify their child support when there has been a “material change in circumstances”. During normal times, proving that your circumstances have changed substantially (since the original child support order was issued) is usually pretty difficult.
Auburn area courts tend to be skeptical of claims of income loss by the paying parent, and a petitioner needs to present a very strong argument in order to prevail. Because of COVID-19, courts are more likely to believe that a parent has legitimately lost income because they were laid off or furloughed, or their business had to close. You still need to present a solid case, however, because modifications are not granted without careful scrutiny.
Before you get to the point of taking your modification request to court, it is much better to try to work things out with the other parent. If you can come to agreement with the other parent without having to go through a court battle, it is far less costly and much better for everyone involved.
The first thing you need to do is communicate with the other parent, inform them of the financial struggles you are going through, and try to reach some type of arrangement that can satisfy everyone. This arrangement may be temporary until you are able to work again or reopen your business, or it may have to go on for a while if you are looking for a new job.
Make sure to fully document all communications you have made with the other parent in case the issue ever ends up in court. You should be able to show that you provided plenty of notification about your drop in income, and you should also be able to show the attempts you have made to find work, applications for unemployment, SBA loans, and other types of assistance, and anything else you did to try to come up with your child support payments. This will show the court that you made a good-faith effort to fulfill your financial obligations to your kids.
Make your Child Support Modification Legally Binding
It is important to understand that, even if you are able to reach an agreement with the other parent, you still need to go through with a formal modification that is approved by the court. Without this, you could open yourself up to problems later on if the other parent changes their mind and decides to come after you for back child support.
The good news is that if both parents agree to a child support modification, a court hearing is not necessary. However, the voluntary agreement must still be approved by the court. On the other hand, if you are unable to come to an agreement with the other parent, then you will need to prepare to argue your case to the court. Either way, it is best to work with a skilled and knowledgeable Auburn child support lawyer to help ensure a smooth process and a favorable outcome.
Contact the Alsobrook Law Group for Experienced Legal Help
The COVID-19 outbreak has left a lot of Alabamans struggling financially and unable to meet their child support obligations. If you are facing this dilemma, or if you are on the other end and your ex is asking for a reduced support payment, the Alsobrook Law Group is here to help.
Message us online or call our office today at (334) 737-3718 for a consultation with one of our attorneys.