I Lost My Job Due to COVID-19. Can I Modify Child Support?
The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting everyone hard. Even if you haven’t contracted the virus, your movements have been limited by it, and so have everyone else’s. In order to limit the spread of the virus, many businesses have been closed, hopefully only temporarily. With the shuttering of businesses, however, means the loss of jobs—some temporary, many permanent.
If one of those jobs was yours, you are no doubt wondering how to meet all your expenses, including child support. If you are paying child support, will you be able to adjust your payments due to your change in income? If you are receiving child support and lost your job, can child support be increased to reflect the fact that your income has changed?
Let’s take a look at the rules around modifying Utah child support, and what you can expect.
When Can Utah Child Support Amounts Be Changed?
There are two ways to change the amount of child support in your case through the courts: a motion for adjustment, and a petition for modification.
You can only file a motion for adjustment if it has been at least three years since your child support order was entered. There are three criteria to file a motion for adjustment:
- There is at least a 10% difference between your current order amount and the amount a current calculation based on child support guidelines would require;
- The difference is not temporary (temporary is defined as less than one year); and
- The amount of child support your motion proposes is consistent with Utah child support guidelines.
Many people will be unable to qualify for a motion for adjustment because their order is less than three years old. The other option for changing the amount of child support is a petition for modification.
The requirements for a petition for modification vary somewhat, depending on whether it has been at least three years since your order was entered. If it has, the requirements are similar to those for a motion for adjustment, except that the proposed support amount does not need to be consistent with child support guidelines.
If it has been less than three years since your last order was entered, there must be at least a 15% difference between the ordered child support amount and the amount required by the guidelines. There must also be a “material change” in circumstances justifying the modification. Such a change might include:
- A significant change in the relative wealth or assets of the parties to the child support order;
- A change of 30% or more to one party’s income;
- A major change in one party’s employment potential and/or ability to earn;
- A material change in custody;
- A change in one parent’s legal responsibility to support others;
- The emancipation of a child.
As with a motion to adjust child support, a petition to modify child support cannot be based on a temporary change. In other words, if you have been laid off from your job for six weeks, but expect to resume employment when that period is over, it might be unwise to petition to modify child support right now. Sadly, for a lot of people, there is no end in sight for their loss of income, and immediate help is needed.
The above discussion assumes that you have a Utah child support order. If you are paying child support under the order of another state, and that order is not registered in Utah, Utah courts will have no authority to modify the order. Your ability to modify the child support order will be governed by the law of the state that does have the power to change it.
If You Need to Modify Child Support During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is difficult for everyone right now, including your child and your co-parent. If your income is reduced, it is also possible that your co-parent’s income is, as well. If you think that you need to modify child support, you should consult with an experienced Utah child support attorney. Your attorney can help you assess the strength of your case and whether it makes sense to petition for a modification of child support now, or to wait. If now is the time to seek a modification, an attorney can also help you gather the evidence you need to bolster your position that a modification of child support is necessary.
If you are worried about your child support obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic, or worried that your co-parent will be unable to meet their child support obligations, we invite you to contact Barton Wood to schedule a consultation to discuss your options.