The COVID 19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders have effectively shut down businesses and created a historic level of unemployment. In North Carolina, nearly 1 million people have filed for unemployment between March 15th and the end of April. The loss of employment did not discriminate and includes people from all types of careers and income levels.
If you have lost your job, have gotten furloughed, or have accepted a wage reduction, you are likely scrambling to make ends meet through savings, withdrawing from retirement funds, finding lower-paying jobs, applying for unemployment, taking out a loan, or asking for help from family. It is a harsh and humbling experience. If you are paying or receiving child support and alimony, then you face an additional layer of stress about whether you can pay what you owe or you are going to receive your court-ordered support.
Orders Must Be Followed Until Modified
Child support orders and alimony orders are legally binding—which means that a court can enforce them with sanctions and contempt. These orders must be followed as they are not flexible and are effective until a court modifies them. Failure to make these payments on time and in the amount ordered can result in arrearages and contempt of court.
A modification is not automatic and the person asking for a change must show for both alimony and child support that there has been a change in circumstances justifying an adjustment to the monthly obligations. Even when the person paying the support has become unemployed or has experienced a dramatic reduction in income, courts will still want to consider:
- Exactly how much a person’s gross income has been reduced;
- Whether unemployment or underemployment was intentional;
- Whether the person paying support has additional sources of assets or income to make payments;
- The needs of the former spouse or child receiving financial support.
The issues surrounding COVID 19 are new to everyone, especially family law attorneys and judges. The uncertain nature of the virus and the length of time we will all be affected will certainly change the way modifications are approached by the courts.
Access to Courts Limited by COVID 19
Due to COVID 19, North Carolina’s Supreme Court has issued orders that courts should postpone or continue most family law proceedings, likely through the end of May or longer. Because of backlogged court dockets, you should act sooner rather than later if you want to seek a modification. You should speak with an attorney immediately to explore your options and to see how quickly you can get your requests before the court. Until then, it is important to do everything you can to follow your court-ordered payment schedule until you get before the court.
Contact New Direction Family Law
If you have lost your job or your income has been reduced, you may need to modify your child support or alimony orders. An attorney can help you access the courts and put forward your strongest evidence to the court. We understand the law and what courts consider in modifying support orders. If you need help, call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit us online through our website.