During the recent coronavirus pandemic and its current aftereffects, hundreds of North Carolina businesses have closed and the resulting economic downturn is affecting everyone. For parents, job loss can be unexpectedly difficult, especially for those who pay or depend on child support or alimony. Support orders are court orders and must be followed. Parents who fail to do so can be held in contempt of court – and in this difficult time, our attorneys want to help you avoid this worst-case scenario.
Many ex-spouses may be able to come to an understanding if one has lost a job and is struggling to pay child support or alimony. However, we know this may not be the case for everyone. Support orders are meant to remain in effect, and are enforceable by the court, until formally modified. Judges may be more lenient during times of crisis like a national pandemic, but unless the payor files for a modification of support, there is always the risk of being held in contempt for failure to pay.
If you are found in contempt of court, you can be put in jail, fined, and ordered to pay back support and even the other party’s attorney fees. If you feel you won’t be able to meet your financial obligations, you must act now.
Filing for modification of child support and alimony orders
According to North Carolina Statute, to modify a support order, you must prove a substantial change in circumstances. This “substantial change” can include job loss or a significant reduction in income, which may entitle you to a reduced support payment amount.
However, here’s where things get complicated.
The courts are not hearing child support or alimony cases until June 1, 2020 per North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s current order. Regardless, if you are having trouble paying a support order, it’s important to file for a modification of support immediately. This puts a date on your claim that we can later use to determine any past support that you may owe – or not owe.
Whether or not you can pay support right now, what you should NOT do is ignore any order. Ignoring or failing to pay puts you at risk for contempt. Experienced attorneys can help you file for modification to show that you are working in good faith. Our legal team can also help you and your ex-partner work out your dispute through mediation via telephone, videoconferencing, or whatever method you prefer.
Because the current coronavirus situation is like a moving target, co-parents and ex-spouses should attempt to cooperate and compromise if one or the other can’t pay support due to job loss. If you’re unable to do so, however, our attorneys can provide informed guidance or advice.
In any type of family law case, the best interests of the children is always the first priority. At Epperson Law Group, PLLC, we are here for your family’s needs. If you need assistance with support orders, please don’t hesitate to contact us for answers to all of your questions. Call us in Charlotte, Boone, or Weddington at 704-321-0031, or visit our contact page, and schedule your consultation.