The economic strain of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many divorced guys wondering how they are possibly going to afford their child or spousal support payments.
Cordell & Cordell’s Virtual Town Hall on COVID-19 and divorce tackled this topic and provided tips and strategies for guys facing this dilemma.
File as quickly as possible
The Virtual Town Hall was led by Cordell & Cordell CEO, Managing/Executive Partner Scott Trout and a panel of divorce attorneys from across the U.S. They discussed the importance of filing and how, if you are finding it difficult to make child support or spousal support payments, filing immediately sets a retroactive date in many jurisdictions that can provide relief.
“They really should be looking county to county,” Cordell & Cordell Mississippi Litigation Attorney Jerrod Rayborn said. “Initially, with the filings for support or divorce, there was a big slowdown, but that has started to speed up.
“Depending on what county you are in, some counties you can go directly into the clerk and file it, and it’s done that day. Other counties, you have to leave it in a Dropbox.”
When seeking a modification, especially during this chaotic time, you need to do what you can to help your attorney and that starts by gathering relevant financial records.
“Whenever you file a motion to modify, whether you’re modifying alimony or modifying child support, you’re going to want information on not only your own finances, but what your ex is going through during this pandemic,” Cordell & Cordell Oklahoma Litigation Attorney Carly Haiduk said. “Issuing, even if it’s just a few discover requests, can be beneficial.”
The discovery process might seem invasive to some, but it can be critical to proving to the court why modification is necessary.
“Discovery is just the process for getting information from the other side,” Ms. Haiduk said. “For example, in Oklahoma, when you file a motion to modify, you can ask 30 questions under oath. You can ask your ex if she’s earning any extra income at this time. Is she on furlough? Did she get some sort of severance package?
“Getting all of that information, so you can use it in negotiations and present it to the court in your motion to modify.”
Spousal support modification
Mr. Trout noted that the process for modifying spousal support, or alimony as it is known in some states, can sometimes be trickier.
Much of the difference between modifying spousal support and child support has to do with the spousal support modification process being reliant on the language in your settlement agreement.
“Your first step is going to be taking a look at the language in your marriage settlement agreement, in order to see if it’s modifiable or not modifiable,” Cordell & Cordell New Jersey Senior Litigation Attorney Michael Prasad said. “Even if the language in your agreement indicates that it is nonmodifiable, it’s still a good idea to consult with an attorney.
“Alimony obligations are modifiable based on the showing of a change in circumstance, and judges operate very differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and even from county to county. Some judges may look at that and say ‘Well, you have a contract you entered into,’ and some judges and courts may look at the circumstances and see that the change in circumstances was unforeseeable.”
Cordell & Cordell is continuing to produce weekly Virtual Town Halls and daily podcasts to answer your questions about how the pandemic is impacting family law. You can find a full library of content on this topic on the Cordell & Cordell COVID-19 and Divorce Information Hub.