Monday, February 16, 2009

Modification of Child Support and Spousal Maintenance

The current recession is not affecting everyone in the same way. Some already are (or soon will be) financially devastated. Others will ride it out relatively unscathed. This disparity can cause real problems in situations involving child support and alimony agreements or awards that were made during past, more stable, financial times. An ex-husband or -wife who has lost their job may no longer be able to meet now-crushing financial obligations. On the other hand, a single parent who receives much-needed child support may now find that it’s not nearly enough make ends meet.

What can be done? Ordinarily, someone in this kind of situation can go back to court and seek a modification, upwards or downwards as the case may be, based upon an unanticipated, unreasonable, and substantial change in circumstances. It isn’t necessary for someone to prove dire need in order to be able to show such a change. On the other hand, a wide disparity in income alone usually will not be enough to convince a court to change an arrangement that had previously been decided.

The loss or reduction of a job, however, is usually the kind of change in circumstances that results in a modification of child support or alimony – so long as the unemployed party can prove that they are being diligent in seeking new employment. Furthermore, if the job wasn’t really lost, but was thrown away, such as quitting for no good reason or being fired for a very good reason, a court likely will refuse to modify the payments because a party who causes his own inability to pay will not be rewarded for their efforts. And, of course, where child support is at stake, the paramount concern of the courts is and always will be what’s in the best interest of the child. The same should be said for the parents.