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If I Lose My Job, Do I Still Owe Child Support and Alimony?

Man holds a medical mask and empty wallet without money. Bankruptcy and unemployment resulting from the global coronavirus epidemic.

We mentioned it in a previous post, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues and many businesses face mass closures and layoffs, the issue merits further discussion: If you lose your job or are furloughed, especially due to the coronavirus, what are your obligations concerning child support and alimony? Call a knowledgeable New Jersey child support and alimony modification lawyer if you need help with a New Jersey family law matter.

Losing your job does not give you automatic relief

As we previously discussed, financial hardship does not give you an automatic pass for refusing to pay child support and alimony. If a court orders you to pay child support or spousal support, you are required to comply with that court order until you get another order from the court permitting you to do otherwise. If you face financial hardship because of the coronavirus or for any other reason, speak with your attorney and petition the court for relief.

Failing to pay child support or alimony can subject you to legal penalties including fines, loss of child custody and visitation rights, and, in extreme circumstances, even jail time. That being said, if you fall behind on a couple of payments before petitioning the court, the court will not automatically send you to jail. Be prepared to explain why you fell behind before you had the chance to file a motion. Depending on your circumstances, the court is likely to be understanding. The most important factor is that you are acting in good faith to comply with your legal obligations.

New Jersey’s alimony modification statute

New Jersey’s alimony statute, revised in 2014, specifically permits a person who owes alimony to seek a reduction in alimony payments if they have been unemployed for a certain amount of time. Before the 2014 revision, courts would often not even consider such a motion until the obligor had been unemployed for at least six months. Now, if the obligor has been involuntarily unemployed for 90 days and has been undertaking good faith efforts to seek new employment, the court will hear the motion and will presume the reduction is sought in good faith. The court may grant a temporary or permanent decrease in alimony, depending on the circumstances.

The situation is, of course, more complicated at the moment. A person who has been laid off or furloughed due to the coronavirus lockdown might not be able to make much of an effort to seek new employment. People are stuck in their homes pursuant to city, state, and federal orders, businesses are closed, and the economy is suffering. Judges, however, are people. They understand the situation, and many government agencies and officials are working to accommodate people in light of the difficulties everyone is facing right now. Even the IRS is officially allowing everyone to delay filing their taxes.

While the law is not exactly clear, a family law court would likely accommodate a motion for reduction in alimony even without showing that the petitioner has made significant efforts to look for a new job. At the moment, looking for a new job simply may not be feasible. Discuss your alimony and child support concerns with your family law attorney to evaluate your options if you are facing financial hardship during this economic downturn.

Help From a New Jersey Support Modification Lawyer

If you’re in need of talented, compassionate, and effective legal help with child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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