The Solution: Filing to Modify Support

What’s the solution here? File to modify or abate your alimony or child support obligation before the payments pile up.

This is not all doom and gloom folks. Yes, losing your job can be a problem. But there is a legal way to go about making sure that the unpaid support, the support you cannot afford to pay does not also become a huge problem. And a solution exists for those who qualify for the relief. Florida law calls this an abatement or temporary modification of support. And what the law says is someone who is paying alimony or child support can seek a temporary, complete, or partial reduction in what they have to pay if they suffer a job loss or material change in income. The solution is to file the appropriate court filing seeking a temporary reduction or abatement in the support based on the reduction in income.

And it’s kind of as easy as one, two, three. At least at a very high level. Well, maybe not. But maybe it is. Kind of the way it works is with the law. If number one, you suffered a loss of income due to no fault of your own. And number two, you made your best efforts to diligently find another job. Then the courts are supposed to reduce or eliminate your support obligation during the time you are not earning enough to pay the full support amount. And this is as long as you file the appropriate legal filing before the support payments come due.

The key here is filing the request for the modification or abatement before the support payment is due. If you don’t do this filing and the support deadline passes, the support is a vested right. And the law doesn’t excuse you from paying it, even if you’ve lost your job.

And the “do the right thing” concept should apply here. If somebody owes you support, think about it for a second. If you’re owed alimony or child support and your former spouse or the other parent lost their job, it wasn’t their fault. Maybe they deserve a break. If the law says technically they’d owe you the money, maybe they should get a little bit of a break here. But, you get to decide what you want to do.

Prefer to read a book about this instead? Click here to access our free book on modification of alimony and modification of child support due to the CoVid 19 pandemic and click here for our modification of support information center.  Also, you can click here or the “Schedule Your Consultation” link above to speak with one of our lawyers concerning your particular situation.

And the “do the right thing” concept should apply here. If somebody owes you support, think about it for a second. If you’re owed alimony or child support and your former spouse or the other parent lost their job, it wasn’t their fault. Maybe they deserve a break. If the law says technically they’d owe you the money, maybe they should get a little bit of a break here. But, you get to decide what you want to do.

Another thing that filing for the abatement does is it protects you from contempt of court. If you file a petition for modification with an abatement request, any contempt of court case that your former spouse or the other parent brings must be heard at the same time the court considers whether your job loss and income reduction excuses you from paying the support. In other words, your former spouse or the other parent can’t rush to the courthouse and have you potentially put in jail for not paying child support or alimony before you have a chance to show the court that you lost the job to no fault of your own and you couldn’t afford to make the payment. So it’s a good bit of protection is triggered by filing these temporary modification and abatement lawsuits.

Another important concept. Some people think that just because they have money in the bank, that they’re required to spend down that money to pay the alimony or child support if they’ve lost their job and can’t pay out of their income. Look, that’s not how the law works here. The case law says if you would otherwise qualify for a reduction in support due to a loss of income, you shouldn’t be forced to spend down all of your assets. But, the key distinction here is you have to file the petition for modification and abatement before the support payment becomes due. Otherwise if you don’t do that, if you don’t file the petition prior to the support payment coming due, it does become a vested right to the other person. And your assets can be looked at as a source for you to pay that amount.

And this is another one of those “do the right thing” moments. While the law might allow you to abate your support and say you don’t have to pay alimony or child support from your other assets, it very well might be the right thing in your situation to spend down your assets and make the payments to the other person. It’s a thing of fairness, and you have to decide what is right in your situation. But the law is not fair all the time. The law does allow you to file the lawsuit and not spend down your assets and get a break from paying support if you’re not making enough income to pay it.

So what about a permanent modification? Can you change the support you owe forever because you lost your job? Probably not. It’s going to be more difficult. If you’ve lost your job and the evidence reflects, you’re more likely to get re-employed earning about the same amount of money, then you’re probably not going to get a permanent pass on paying alimony or child support. You’re probably just going to get a temporary reduction or elimination during the period that you’re unemployed or underemployed. But this is still a huge help and is usually a reason worth doing this, whether it’s with an attorney or on your own.

Moral of the story here is don’t wait to file the modification case. Remember that you get no relief until you file the proper petition for modification or abatement. The longer you wait means the more arrearages that you cannot legally get excused from paying. Unless you get a written promise that’s turned into a court order, it’s usually best to file as soon as you realize the reduction in income, and then you can negotiate later. Unless you feel “doing the right thing” and giving it a while is the right thing to do while fully understanding that you’re always going to have to pay the money.

Click here to access our free book on modification of alimony and modification of child support due to the CoVid 19 pandemic and click here for our modification of support information center.  Also, you can click here or the “Schedule Your Consultation” link above to speak with one of our lawyers concerning your particular situation.