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Changing support payments: What you should know

The global pandemic has caused an undue amount of stress for many people. In many cases, this stress is emotional, physical and even financial. After all, many people across Virginia might have been furloughed or lost their jobs due to business closures.

In these cases of financial stress, individuals who have an obligation to pay child support or spousal support might wonder what they should do if they cannot fulfill those obligations at this time.

Is it possible to adjust support payments?

The answer to this question depends on one’s circumstances. In any situation where individuals seek to modify their support obligations, they often must prove that they experienced a significant change in their financial or material circumstances.

For example, when it comes to child support, parents can petition to modify their support payments if:

  • They lost their job or face reduced income by 25%;
  • Expenses to meet the child’s needs significantly change; or
  • There is a change in the custody order.

Generally, it is always possible to modify child support payments under these terms and after the initial order has been in effect for three years. However, parents should consult the guidelines the Department of Social Services published regarding the unique COVID-19 situation and child support modifications.

Modifying spousal support might be more of a challenge

On the other hand, adjusting one’s spousal support obligations might not be quite as simple. For example, spouses might not be able to modify their support obligations if:

  • The spousal support agreement was established before 2018; or
  • The agreement was established after 2018 with a legal stipulation that it is not modifiable.

If one’s situation does not meet either of these conditions, they can move forward with modifying their spousal support payments. Regardless, it might be beneficial for individuals to consult an experienced family law attorney to determine how they can move forward without exacerbating their already stressful financial situation.

Changing either child support or spousal support is not automatic. Individuals will have to discuss the proposed changes with their ex-spouse and file a petition to change court-ordered support agreements.

However, during these challenging times, individuals who cannot make their usual support payments should consider this option to relieve their stress as well as avoid the consequences of missing support payments.

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