Working for the government is typically awesome. Most state and federal employees get incredible health and life insurance benefits. They also have fairly “normal” hours, without necessity to check email on nights or weekends. These benefits are tossed on the back burner when there is a government shutdown.
Unfortunately, these shutdowns have become all too common, under both Democratic and Republican leadership. In late 1995-1996, the federal shutdown lasted over a month. What happens to support obligations during these periods?
Child support and alimony obligations survive government shutdowns. What should you do if a shutdown or layoff effects you?
The essentials: Make sure that you have a rainy day fund. Regardless of whether you are self employed or working for someone else, there will certainly be an amount of time during your career where your income is less than usual or non-existent. Just like your rent or mortgage, you should plan for how you will pay your support obligations during that time; and
Communicate with your ex. We know, we know….you don’t want to talk with your ex, but it may save you unnecessary time in court. If your ex is aware of the situation and you communicate your concerns to them, they may be more likely to work with you to figure out a reasonable solution rather than just bringing you in to court. In most cases, both parties can come up with a reasonable, short term agreement on their own.
If those options don’t work: If you are the payor, you could file a Complaint for Modification. If your loss of income continues for an extended period of time, it may worth it to file a Complaint for Modification based on a material (ie. significant) change of circumstance. Child support can always be changed, depending on custody and income; however, it typically takes a month or so to have matters heard so the change should be fairly long term; and
If you are the payee, you could file a Complaint for Contempt. If the loss of support continues for an extended period of time, it may be worth it to file a request that the court acknowledges that someone is in violation of an agreement (ie. Contempt). There is no minimum amount of late payments that must be accrued prior to filing, but judges usually look for a pattern or significant amount of late payments. Filing could lead to a finding that the person is in violation of the agreement, but the judge could also lower payments or defer to a payment plan on the arrears based on an inability to pay.
As always, please let us know if you have any questions about child support and alimony or any other legal matters.
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