Lost Your Job During The Pandemic? What You Need To Know About Paying Alimony

The pandemic changed a lot for everyone, especially those who lost their jobs. In addition to job loss, some individuals lost income from Retention Stock Units (RSU’s) that were negatively impacted by the stock market drop. In addition, small businesses closed because of stay-at-home orders and mandatory shut-ins. 

Depending on the extent of financial loss you experienced, you may be unable to continue your alimony payments in the amount you are obligated to. In some cases, you may not be able to make the payments at all.

For example, if you or your former spouse experienced job loss due to the pandemic, you might be able to modify your alimony judgment. However, there are a few things you need to know about paying alimony or modification because of job loss.

Can Alimony Be Modified?

Depending on your alimony agreement, your alimony payments may or may not be modified. If the agreement does not list it as modifiable, then it can be. If the agreement does state that it cannot be modified, it should list circumstances where it can be modified. These circumstances can be job loss, disability, or other major life events. The third option is that the agreement states in no circumstances can it be modified.

How Can It Be Modified?

If alimony can be modified, the law states that the amount can be increased or decreased as circumstances and justice requires. In this case, you must show that there has been a material change in circumstances, such as job loss or reduced income since the original agreement or court order was issued. 

Be Up Front & Honest About Your Financial Situation

Even if you’re only anticipating a change in your income, it’s crucial to talk to your ex and explain the situation. Make it clear that you want to communicate and plan to modify payments when business picks up again. A little bit of goodwill and honesty will go a long way in working to lower support payments for now.

Remember, your ex is receiving this money because they need it. They’ll have to make adjustments to their expenses too. The more communication and time you can give to help them plan, the better the negotiation will go for now and in the future.

Try To Reach An Agreement Together

If you and your ex can have an open and honest discussion about your loss of income or potential, you may want to try and discuss coming to an agreement together. Unfortunately, courts are closed to hear cases during the pandemic, and it can be months before you can have a hearing or mediation. Not to mention, you’ll save time and money working things out together.

Be mindful that your tone is critical to your success. You don’t want to say anything that could be perceived as a demand or criticism. Communicate clearly, but empathize that you understand the impact this will have on them as well. If you and your ex can agree to an agreement, make sure you get it in writing and submitted to the court as is required.

When Does The Modification Go Into Effect?

In California, spousal or partner support cannot be changed retroactively. For example, if you lost your job three months ago and are just now filing papers to change your order, the judge cannot go back to the day you lost your job. They can only go back as far as the date you filed your papers in court requesting the modification.

What Do I Need To Do To File For A Modification?

If you and your ex can come to an agreement, you need to file the request to the court. The process of filing a request for modification takes quite a few steps:

  1.  Fill out your court forms – Check out the California Courts website for specific forms to complete.
  2. Have the forms reviewed by your attorney.
  3. Make two copies of all forms for your ex and the court’s copies.
  4. File the forms with the court clerk – the clerk will keep the original and return your copies stamped “Filed.”
  5. Get a court date.
  6. Serve the papers on your ex – you must have someone other than yourself serve these papers.
  7. File proof of service – once your ex has been served, file the proof of service.
  8. Go to the court hearing – take a copy of your papers and proof of service. Bring your proof of income and expenses to support your argument for modification.

Once the judge makes a decision, they will sign a court order. Once the order is signed, it cannot be modified unless another request is submitted. 

Consult An Attorney

Modifying your spousal support payments can be a complex and confusing process. There are forms, documents, and court hearings to consider. Even if you and your spouse agree to the modification, consulting an attorney and ensuring you file the right paperwork is critical to your success.

At Azemika & Azemika, our law firm is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. We handle divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. Our partners at Azemika & Azemika will put their expertise to work for you and make sure your case is customized to your needs. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

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