The Legal Process for Modifying Alimony & Child Support
The legal process for modifying alimony and child support when you’ve lost your job or suffered a decrease in income, is not all that complicated. And it kind of goes in the following steps. Step one, as soon as you can, as long as it’s appropriate, file the appropriate petition for modification and seek a temporary abatement. Make sure you do this before the next support payment is due. For child support, you’re required to file a financial affidavit with the petition. And if you forget to do this, you risk having your case dismissed and allowing missed support payments to accumulate as vested rights.
The second step is serving the other party with the lawsuit. There are certain rules on how long you have to do this and in the manner in which it needs to be done. And step three is to comply with mandatory disclosure requirements. And what mandatory disclosure is what you probably went through in your divorce or paternity case. And within about a month and a half of the case being filed and served, you and the other person is going half to exchange a minimum set of documents that typically includes three years of tax returns, about a year’s worth of savings and investment account statements, and three months of credit cards, and bank accounts, and pay records to the extent they exist.
Both parties have to do this. And we’ll come back in a second and talk about how you might find some interesting information by obtaining the other person’s financial records. You might actually be entitled to a reduction in support due to their income changing. But more on that later.
With a lot of these cases they end by step four, which is the negotiation phase. Depending on what’s happening after a few months of the case being filed, hopefully you have regained employment. And the question at that point is not whether you need a permanent modification in support, but whether you should be entitled to not have to pay the other person for the support payments that accumulated and were unpaid during the period of time that you couldn’t afford to make the payments. And a lot of times, this is where alternative dispute resolution (settlement out of court) comes in.
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A lot of these cases are settled through mediation, and cooler heads prevail. Because the law kind of “is what it is” on this. If you truly couldn’t afford to pay, you don’t have to and you’re supposed to get a break on the payment as long as you file the right lawsuit at the right time.
But if the other person doesn’t agree, if it makes financial sense and they’re going to push the issue of trying to make you pay for the support that added up when you didn’t have a job or had your income slashed, then you’ll need to have a court hearing over whether you’re entitled to a temporary or permanent reduction in support.
And all the good lawyers are going to make an effort to keep you from having to go to a court hearing. But the fact of the matter is that it’s a tough issue here. The other person, your former spouse, or the other parent may very well be sympathetic to you, but in fact need the money. And sometimes that requires going to court hearings that really nobody wants to be attend.
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.