COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has taken millions of people from their jobs. Many non-essential workers have lost their jobs completely, while others are working from home at full or partial capacities. People out of work due to the pandemic may or may not qualify for unemployment benefits. The effects COVID-19 has had on the workforce and economy may have taken a toll on your ex-spouse’s finances. If your ex cannot afford to pay the alimony he or she owes you due to the coronavirus, take steps to protect your legal rights.
Arrange Alimony Modification
Alimony is your ex-spouse’s legal obligation. It is up to your ex, therefore, to file a motion to modify the alimony order if he or she has suffered a significant change in income due to COVID-19 and cannot afford to pay. If your ex comes to you and explains he or she cannot afford the payment, ask your ex to request an official modification through the Orange County courts. Making an arrangement privately could be dangerous. A verbal agreement without a judge granting an official modification does not change an alimony obligation on paper. Your ex, therefore, will technically still owe you the full amount.
If your ex-spouse’s circumstances qualify as hardship, the courts should grant an alimony modification request. A modification order may excuse your ex-spouse from paying alimony while his or her COVID-19 related hardship endures. It could also reduce the amount of the alimony order temporarily. Failing to obtain an official modification order could lead to unnecessary financial losses for you and/or penalties against your spouse for not paying. Without a modification order, your spouse will lawfully still have to fulfill his or her financial obligation. Your ex needs to file an official request to ensure the validity of the alimony modification.
Will Stimulus Checks Be Garnished to Help Pay for Alimony?
The coronavirus stimulus checks of $1,200 given to each individual by the federal government aimed to provide a little financial relief during these difficult economic times. If a person is in debt, however, he or she might receive a reduced stimulus check – or no money at all. The government and private parties may have the right to garnish part or all of a person’s COVID-19 stimulus check if that person is in debt. This includes debts related to child support. It may not, however, apply to alimony debts.
In most cases, it is against the CARES Act to seize part of all of a stimulus check for unpaid spousal maintenance or alimony. While the act does not stop the garnishment of the check for tax debts and child support payments, it says nothing about garnishing stimulus packages for alimony. It may not be possible, therefore, to force your ex-spouse to pay alimony through his or her stimulus check. If you need assistance getting your spouse to pay alimony during the coronavirus pandemic, hire a lawyer to help you work through your issue.
Hire a Family Law Attorney in Orange County
Unpaid alimony could add to your financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your spouse has the means to pay but is refusing to do so, you have the right to file a complaint against him or her demanding payment. Although California’s family courts may be closed to in-person matters, you can still bring a claim electronically or via mail. An Orange County family lawyer can help you with the necessary paperwork to file a complaint.
If your ex-spouse cannot afford to pay because of a lost job, he or she needs to request an official support modification order. Until a judge grants your ex’s modification request, he or she will continue to owe you the same amount in alimony. Contact a family law attorney for legal advice about your specific alimony situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.