COVID-19 Crisis and Modification of Support Obligations
In these uncertain financial times caused by the COVID-19 crisis, you may have questions regarding your child support and/or alimony obligations, such as:
Can I adjust my obligations?
Do I still have to pay the full amount if I do not have a paycheck?
What if I lost my job?
What if my salary was cut?
What if I had a reduction in my work hours?
Those are probably just a handful of the overwhelming questions you have as you try and navigate your options. Do not worry, you are not alone. Marple Rubin Family Law is here to help and guide you through the process.
1. Financial Change
Georgia law allows for the modification of alimony for a former spouse if there has been a change in the income and/or financial status of either former spouse. A court can make an interim modification of the alimony obligation while the case is pending, so that the former spouse who had the change in income and/or financial status can obtain immediate relief.
Depending on when and who filed a prior modification of alimony, there are some important limitations on the ability to file a new modification action. Specifically, a former spouse will not be allowed to file a new alimony modification case within two (2) years from the date of the entry of a prior final order on a previous alimony modification action filed by that same former spouse. It is not the date that you filed the last action, but the date that the last action was adjudicated by a final order. However, this does not apply to the initial final decree or final order in a divorce or separate maintenance action that established the original alimony obligation. Further, if you were the Defendant (or Respondent) in the prior modification case, this does not prohibit you from filing an alimony modification case if it is within that two (2) year time period.
2. Voluntary Cohabitation in a Meretricious Relationship
In addition to a change in income and/or financial circumstances, another option to modify your alimony obligations exists if your former spouse is now voluntarily cohabitating with another person in a meretricious relationship. The term “cohabitation” means “dwelling together continuously and openly in a meretricious relationship with another person, regardless of the sex of the other person.” A “meretricious relationship” means a “stable, marriage-like relationship in which the parties cohabit knowing that a lawful marriage between them does not exist.”
If you suspect that your former spouse is voluntarily cohabiting with another person in a meretricious relationship, then you should contact us to discuss options before raising the issue with your former spouse or running to file anything with a court. You should gather as much evidence as legally possible before taking any action that would alert your former spouse so he or she does not alter their behavior.
Child Support Modification
1. Financial Change or Needs of Child(ren)
Georgia law allows for the modification of child support when there has been a substantial change in either parent’s income and/or financial status or a change in the needs of the child(ren).
Like an alimony modification, there are some important limitations on the ability to file a new modification action depending on when and who filed a prior modification of child support. Specifically, a parent will not be allowed to file a new child support modification case within two (2) years from the date of the entry of a prior final order on a previous child support modification action filed by that same parent. It is not the date that you filed the last action, but the date that the last action was adjudicated by a final order. However, this does not apply to the initial final decree or final order that established the original child support obligation, such as in a divorce, separate maintenance, or paternity action. Further, if you were the Defendant (or Respondent) in the prior modification case, this does not prohibit you from filing a child support modification case if it is within that two (2) year time period.
2. Involuntary Loss of Income
Georgia law also allows for the modification of child support when a parent suffers an involuntary termination of employment, has an extended involuntary loss of average weekly hours, incurs a loss of health, or similar involuntary adversity resulting in a loss of income of twenty-five percent (25%) or more. This is a significant exception to the rules above. There are no limitations to file a child support modification as a result of an involuntary loss of income based on when or who filed a prior modification action.
If you have lost your job or had a significant, involuntary reduction in hours and pay as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for relief, including a temporary reduction in your child support obligation. The portion of child support attributable to lost income shall not accrue from the date of the service of the petition for modification. Therefore, you must act immediately in order to be eligible for the automatic reduction to the date of filing.
Let Marple Rubin Family Law Be Your Advocate
Depending on the facts of your specific case, Georgia law allows for adjustments to current child support and/or alimony obligations when there are extenuating circumstances. At the end of the day, your best option is to contact a reputable attorney who can help you navigate the options available to you.
Marple Rubin Family Law is here to help you navigate through that process. Our award-winning attorneys are available to discuss the specifics of your case. Please contact us at 770-796-4000 or visit our website at www.marplerubin.com to schedule a virtual consultation.