For many people, the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have resulted in fewer hours at work, reduced pay and lost jobs. For those who have alimony and child support obligations, this can present particular challenges. In addition to paying for their housing, utilities, gas and other daily living expenses, former spouses who owe alimony and child support must find a way to satisfy these additional obligations as well. This is a scenario our McKinney family lawyers are seeing with increasing frequency during the pandemic.

If you cannot afford to make your alimony or child support payments as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, what should you do? What are your options if your former spouse has stopped paying what he or she owes? Here are some important facts for you to know:

1. Spouses Who Owe Alimony and Child Support Cannot Simply Stop Paying

In Texas, non-payment of alimony or child support amounts to a violation of a court order, and this can have serious consequences. Not only can a spouse who stops paying face liability for arrears – which may be enforced through wage garnishments, seizure of tax refunds and other means – but he or she can potentially face other penalties as well. In serious cases, non-payment of alimony or child support can be prosecuted as a criminal offense carrying fines and jail time.

2. It is Possible to Modify Alimony or Child Support Based on a Substantial Change in Circumstances

In order to legally stop paying alimony or child support, it is necessary to first obtain a modification of the applicable alimony or child support order. In Texas, alimony and child support are both subject to modification based on evidence of a substantial change in circumstances. Having your hours reduced or even losing your job will not necessarily qualify as a substantial change, but it is certainly a relevant factor in determining whether a modification is warranted.

Texas law also allows for the modification of child support if, after three years, the amount owed would change by at least 20 percent or $100 under the current circumstances. If you have been paying child support for more than three years, you may be able to obtain a modification without proof of a substantial change.

3. Former Spouses Can Agree to Modify the Terms of Their Divorce

Finally, just as spouses can establish the terms of their divorce by agreement in Texas, they can modify the terms of their divorce by agreement as well. There are certain limitations (i.e. child support calculations must still generally comply with Texas’s Child Support Guidelines); but, if you and your former spouse can agree on an alternate arrangement, this may be a good option for avoiding unnecessary complications.

Do You Have Questions about Alimony or Child Support Related to the COVID-19 Crisis?

Our McKinney family lawyers are representing divorced spouses in alimony, child support and other family-related matters during the COVID-19 crisis. If you have questions and would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to call 214-726-1450 or contact us online to arrange a free and confidential consultation.