After years of a booming economy, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on our state and national economies. Non-essential businesses have been forced to close and millions have become unemployed. Many others who have held onto their jobs have had their hours or pay reduced. The pandemic has caused households to struggle financially and many are worried about how they will pay their bills and trying to determine how they can reduce expenses. What are the options to modify alimony and/or child support obligations if one or both parties has experienced a reduction in income or a loss income due to the coronavirus pandemic?
If one or both litigants cannot resolve the issue on their own, a lawyer and/or mediator can offer up assistance to resolve the matter. A resolution is going to require both parties to be reasonable and understanding. The person receiving support may need to be understanding of the obligor party’s financial distress and worry. The person paying support may need to understand that alimony and child support may represent all or most of the receiving party’s income and that party cannot apply for unemployment benefits to replace lost support. The matter is more significant when there are children that have to be cared and provided for, and that is paramount.
If the parties cannot come to an agreement, can the court offer relief? The courts have not been having hearings but for emergency matters, and financial disputes are generally not considered emergent. However, the courts in New Jersey have risen to the occasion and applications to modify support can be filed electronically. A Family Division judge can decide the matter based on the review of the papers alone if that is requested, or the judge can conduct oral argument, settlement conferences and the like via telephone and/or video conference. The courts are still open to conduct family law business.