Support Obligations During COVID-19


The simple answer is nothing, unless you can come to an agreement or file an emergency order with the court. Regardless of having experienced an increase or decrease in income, once the court issues a support order, that order remains in place and is fully enforceable until it becomes officially modified pursuant to a valid court order. Many families recognize that financial circumstances arise that cause the original support order to be no longer feasible due to job loss, salary cuts, or work furlough. With a likely 20% unemployment rate due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, getting ahead of modifying your support order is one of the wisest decisions a person paying support can make.

It is a grave mistake to believe that even a written agreement to modify support will have any enforceability should the supported party later go back to court to seek back support based on the original order. Not only does the right to seek back support never expire, but child support and spousal support arrearages accrue at a whopping 10% annual interest rate. Put simply, if your original support order obligated you to pay your spouse $5,000 per month, that order is fully enforceable until it is officially modified by the court. The court has no legal authority to enforce an informal agreement, regardless of the severity of the situation or even the intent of the parties at the time they entered into an informal agreement.

If you truly desire to have a legally enforceable modification of your support obligation, you must reduce that agreement to a stipulation and order that is signed by judge and filed with the court. If there is no informal agreement, the only way you can modify or terminate a current support order is to file a motion with the court requesting relief based upon your new circumstances. The date of your severance, layoff, or furlough will have no bearing on when your support obligation will be reduced or eliminated. The date that you file a motion is the only date that will give the court jurisdiction to change an existing order.

As of this writing, the court is accepting only emergency motions, but the guidance and emergency orders are changing constantly. With over 40 years of combined legal experience in our office and using our relationships in the legal community, we have already had substantial success obtaining modifications for our clients, despite the closure of the courts. Sims Family Law Group can assist you in obtaining the relief that you need in this time of financial uncertainty, and if even you only need advice or have questions, we encourage you to reach out to us.