You may be like many fathers who have been separated from your children, under the pretext of exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). You may have missed holidays, birthdays, or even the quieter moments of simply assisting them with their homework.
You may be one of the 36 million unemployed, due to COVID-19 and now are facing child or spousal support obligations that you can no longer meet. You want to give your child the best life possible, and you even may be cordial even with your ex-spouse, to assist them after your divorce has been finalized.
However, it may no longer be possible to the extent that the court order outlines.
In order to remedy this, it is imperative that you consult with a family law attorney and file with the family courts.
Cordell & Cordell CEO, Managing/Executive Partner Scott Trout hosted another Virtual Town Hall on May 15, with a panel of attorneys from across the United States.
Check your jurisdiction
They broke down the importance of filing and how, if you are struggling with making child or spousal support obligations, filing now sets a retroactive date in many areas that can provide relief.
“They really should be looking county to county,” Cordell & Cordell Mississippi Litigation Attorney Jerrod Rayborn said. “Initially, with the filings for support or divorce, there was a big slowdown, but that has started to speed up.
“Depending on what county you are in, some counties you can go directly into the clerk and file it, and it’s done that day. Other counties, you have to leave it in a Dropbox.”
When seeking modification, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to do the necessary work, in order to help your attorney make the best case to a judge possible. That starts with financial records.
“Whenever you file a motion to modify, whether you’re modifying alimony or modifying child support, you’re going to want information on not only your own finances, but what your ex is going through during this pandemic,” Cordell & Cordell Oklahoma Litigation Attorney Carly Haiduk said. “Issuing, even if it’s just a few discover requests, can be beneficial.”
While it may seem invasive to some, the discovery process is a critical component to illustrating the financial picture to a family court and why modification is necessary, especially during a financially devastating time like COVID-19.
“Discover is just the process for getting information from the other side,” Ms. Haiduk said. “For example, in Oklahoma, when you file a motion to modify, you can ask 30 questions under oath. You can ask your ex if she’s earning any extra income at this time. Is she on furlough? Did she get some sort of severance package?
“Getting all of that information, so you can use it in negotiations and present it to the court in your motion to modify.”
Navigating alimony modification
According to Mr. Trout, spousal support, or alimony, can have different expectations involved when seeking modification.
“When thinking about alimony maintenance, or what we commonly refer to as spousal support, it tends to be difficult analysis, because you have to pull out your judgment and determine whether it is modifiable or not,” Mr. Trout said.
Much of the difference between modifying spousal support and child support has to do with the spousal support modification process being reliant on the language in your settlement agreement.
“Your first step is going to be taking a look at the language in your marriage settlement agreement, in order to see if it’s modifiable or not modifiable,” Cordell & Cordell New Jersey Senior Litigation Attorney Michael Prasad said. “Even if the language in your agreement indicates that it is nonmodifiable, it’s still a good idea to consult with an attorney.
“Alimony obligations are modifiable based on the showing of a change in circumstance, and judges operate very differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and even from county to county. Some judges may look at that and say ‘Well, you have a contract you entered into,’ and some judges and courts may look at the circumstances and see that the change in circumstances was unforeseeable.”
You also cannot afford to miss out on more of your child’s life, which makes it all the more paramount to document each interaction you have with your co-parent. You need a record of when you are being kept from your child and the circumstances surrounding it. You need to be able to illustrate that your co-parent violated a court order, after you file.
“You will be punished if you disobey a court order,” Cordell & Cordell South Carolina Litigation Attorney James Todd IV said.
Filing for Divorce
If you find yourself in an unhappy marriage during the pandemic and you feel that it is irreparably broken, you cannot afford to wait to take action.
“What you want to do, right off the bat, if you find yourself in this situation, is to immediately file an action, if you are thinking about divorce,” Mr. Todd said. “The reason for that is that it cuts off the marital estate. You always want to start that process by talking with an attorney.”
If you are in need of legal assistance, contact Cordell & Cordell attorneys for help with your divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, modification, or any other family law issue.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.