Modifying Child Support and Alimony Because of COVID-19
Many hardworking parents are finding it hard to meet their child support and alimony obligations because they have lost their job or suffered reduced work hours because of COVID-19. You may be able to lower your financial support obligations as a result.
Utah law allows you to seek modification of child support and alimony when there has been a “substantial” change in circumstances. For example, if a parent gets laid off because the company they were working for goes bankrupt.
To succeed on a request to modify support you need to show the court you cannot realistically find another job that gives you the same income as before. The reason is even if a parent loses their job the court may still “impute” a certain amount of income to them based on what it thinks they could be earning with reasonable effort. To “impute” means the court calculates family support as if a parent was actually earning that amount of money even if they are not. Relevant considerations include whether a parent was laid off or voluntarily quit, their historical earning potential, and current job market conditions. A court is not required to impute income but may do so (and commonly does).
In the case of a COVID-19 related job loss, the court will want to know what efforts a parent has made to find other employment and take advantage of unemployment and other government benefits in the interim. You will want to show the court that you are making a reasonable effort to find other work such as applying for jobs, networking, interviewing, etc. A good idea is to make a list of all the companies you apply for, the job position and expected wage, the method you used, the date, and what followup efforts you made. If the court finds you lost your job because of COVID-19 disruptions and have not been able to find other work despite making a reasonable effort to do so then the court may lower your financial support obligations.
A challenge many parents may face is that to modify a child support order you also have to show your decreased income is not “temporary.” The child support statute defines “temporary” as “a period of time that is projected to be less than 12 months in duration.” That means if your employer only furloughed you for a month then you may not be able to modify child support. But if you are laid off and it appears unlikely that you will get re-hired or find another job paying a similar income within 12 months then you may be entitled to relief.
Utah courts are mindful many hardworking and caring parents are suffering severe economic hardship because of the terrible impact COVID-19 has had on the economy. As of right now no one knows whether things will start to improve in the coming months or will worsen. Regardless, if you might have a case it is important that you act right away because the court can only change child support retroactive to the first month after you file your petition to modify. In other words, if you wait to file you may be stuck paying a higher amount of support for periods you were out of work.
Do you have questions or need help getting relief from your child support or alimony obligations because of COVID-19 related economic disruptions? If so give the attorneys at Wiser Family Law a call at 855-254-2600 or Contact Us online. We are available to meet via Zoom, in-person, or telephone.