COVID-19 has brought on many changes for families across Florida. As a result, child support, visitation, and alimony may all be impacted to some degree due to how COVID-19 has affected individuals. However, Florida has not changed any requirements to pay child support or alimony. While there may be options to make changes to these obligations, most individuals must continue to make payments as scheduled.
You should also keep in mind that some alimony orders cannot be changed at all. There may not be any available options to change alimony payments due to COVID-19 or any other reason. On the other hand, child support can be recalculated based on a change of circumstances.
Changing Child Support and Alimony Due to COVID-19
Both child support and alimony are determined by the appointed Court judge in a legal proceeding. If you want to make changes to these obligations, you must return to court and show the judge a “substantial” change in circumstances to alter child support or alimony. That change must not have been contemplated at the time the amount of child support or alimony was set. This change must be:
The definition of “permanent,” however, varies on a case-by-case basis. Some courts will agree that a change has occurred when your conditions are altered for at least 12 months. Other courts may agree that matters have been altered if it lasts for several months. Regardless, the change must continue to exist for some time before it is considered “substantial” under Florida State law.
COVID-19 has certainly changed many lives, but those changes may not be permanent enough in nature to trigger the “substantial” change to alter child support or alimony.
Judges across the State of Florida will be making rulings now and in the upcoming months related to changes brought on by COVID-19. They will ultimately determine how long a change must be in effect to alter child support and alimony obligations.
What Should I Do If I Can’t Pay Child Support or Alimony Because of COVID-19?
If you can no longer afford your child support or alimony payments, filing a modification to change these amounts may be a good idea for you. Things like sudden job loss and illness can last for several months. It is a good idea to request modification as soon as you realize you cannot make payments.
Keep in mind that you cannot stop paying child support or alimony until you have an official order from a judge that changes it. Failing to pay could result in penalties and other negative consequences. Your previous spouse or co-parent can still file to enforce those orders, even amid COVID-19 issues.
If you absolutely cannot make payments, you can request that the judge make the change in the amount of child support or alimony retroactive so that you do not have an outstanding arrearage. Keep in mind that you can only retroactively change the amount to the date that you requested the modification—the sooner, the better!