Alimony, Covid-19 and Job Loss. Now What?
Updated: Jan 5, 2021
So many people got what they didn’t ask for in 2020 – the loss of a job, home,
health, or family member due to covid-19. For those engaged in ongoing divorce
settlements with alimony payments, the loss is mixed with dread and anxiety.
Perhaps you or your ex lost your income due to a covid-19 related job furlough,
job loss or slashed hours; now one or both of you cannot make your court-
What happens now? Do you just stop paying?
The answer, in short, is NO. These are unprecedented times for both attorneys
and families in divorce court. But there are pathways forward to mitigate job loss.
In some cases, terms of spousal support can be modified by family court. Let’s
take a look.
COVID-19 Income Loss and Alimony
In most cases, your alimony terms were set by a family court judge, based on
earlier financial analyses. These terms remain in place until they expire or are
replaced by new ones. That means they can likely be changed with a
demonstrated inability to pay. Called Complaints for Modification, legal
arguments can be made for reductions – temporary or permanent - in monthly
payments. Know that every motion will be assessed on its own merit and will be
based on a judge’s discretion.
Know, too, that such decisions aren’t always as clear-cut as they look. Factor in
past and present earnings, along with the uncertainty of future earnings, and the
waters can get muddy. Many income analyses look nothing like they did just a
few months ago.
Start Preparing Today
To start, it might be helpful to write out two monthly income and budget
statements – one pre-covid, and one that reflects your present situation. See how
the two statements differ. Remember that, in most states, unemployment checks
will be considered as income for the purpose of court-ordered settlements.
Here are a few more tips to keep in mind:
1. Know the “change in circumstances” threshold that may apply in your state
2. Approach modification agreements with flexibility and creative problem
3. Stay up to date on relief available from government programs and
employers; there may be covid-19 relief funds for child support.
4. Reach out to your ex, if appropriate. Can you and your former spouse
come to an agreement? If so, ask your attorney to create a temporary
agreement modification. This will save you both time and money.
5. If the answer to the question above is a “no,” seek a family mediator to
provide guidance. They will act as a neutral third party.
6. Warning: do not simply STOP making payments. You may owe those
deferred payments after the fact, which could devastate your later ability
to pay. Consider a temporary modification instead.
7. Make a good faith effort to pay at least a portion if you can. This will go a
long way with the courts.
In any scenario, however, your first and best move is to contact your family law
attorney. This person is knowledgeable about your case, and will:
Have answers to your questions
Work to protect your interests.
Review your specific circumstances
Know whether court proceedings are happening live or virtual in your state;
(because of covid-19, many family courts remain temporarily closed except
for emergency matters.)
Review with you the specific type of alimony you are paying. (There are
Think proactively. Call your attorney for a consultation as soon as the financial
hardship hits. Don’t delay.
Christine Moccia is a divorce and family law specialist in Rye Brook, New York. She has more than 28 years experience as a litigator, advocate, negotiator, and adviser. Christine has successfully helped clients in the areas of divorce, separation, mediation, custody, child and spousal support, and prenuptial/postnuptial agreements. Visit www.christinemoccia.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (914)-902-3325