Modification of Alimony due to Loss of Income during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many people are finding themselves facing a loss of income, either on a temporary or permanent basis, as a result of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. The unprecedented shuttering of businesses and the suspension of social gatherings has affected a vast cross section of the workforce. If you are currently paying alimony and have lost your income, either temporarily or permanently, it is important that you consult with an experienced divorce attorney to discuss your options.

Can my Alimony be Modified?

Not all alimony obligations are modifiable. If you and your former spouse entered into an alimony agreement that was not incorporated into a court order, you may not be eligible to modify your alimony through the Court. If your alimony obligation is in a Court Order, North Carolina allows a modification by following a motion and showing changed circumstances by either party. Typical modifications of alimony are a result of:

  • The paying spouse losing employment
  • The spouse receiving alimony securing employment
  • The spouse receiving alimony has a change in reasonable needs and expenses
  • The paying spouse has a change in ability to pay

If your alimony obligation is in an out of court agreement, it may still be modifiable through other methods. Often alimony agreements contain modification language that allows for modification when income of the supporting spouse changes. If your alimony obligation is in an agreement, you may still have options. It is important to talk through these issues with a skilled and knowledgeable divorce attorney.

It is important to not that a modification of alimony is not the same as a termination of alimony. North Carolina addresses termination of alimony separate from modification and allows termination under specific enumerated circumstances.

Change in Circumstances of Paying Spouse

A supporting spouse’s ability to pay is a large factor in alimony, particularly when a court considers whether to modify an alimony obligation. Ability to pay is determined based on considering income (from all sources), and reasonable needs and expenses. If you have lost your employment, you may be able to seek a downward modification of your alimony obligation. However not all losses of employment are eligible. If you have lost your employment intentionally, or if you were fired or terminated for cause, a court may not consider this loss of income as voluntary. The court will not consider loss of income that was a result of you attempting to avoid your alimony obligations. If you have lost your job due to the Governor’s Stay at Home Orders, closure of businesses and the resulting social distancing guidelines, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Change in Circumstances of Spouse Receiving Alimony

The needs and expenses of a dependent spouse are one of the main considerations that a Court will review to determine if a modification of alimony should occur. North Carolina acknowledges that needs and expenses are not static and may change during the term of an alimony award. There are many ways that needs and expenses can change for a dependent spouse. For example:

  • A dependent spouse who was not employed at the time of the alimony order, may have obtained employment and that income directly correlates to a lower need.
  • A dependent spouse may have relocated and now lives in a smaller home which lessens their monthly expenses
  • A dependent spouse may have eliminated certain expenses, such as paying off a vehicle or a mortgage debt that would result in overall lower monthly needs and expenses.

However, not all changes in the needs and expenses for a dependent spouse can result in a lower alimony amount. Some changes increase a dependent spouse’s needs and expenses such as:

  • Losing employment due to the Coronavirus pandemic or other external, involuntary reasons.
  • A dependent spouse relocated and housing expense has increased.
  • A dependent spouse may have been required to obtain a new vehicle which could increase expenses.

If you are currently paying alimony and believe that your former spouse has had a change in circumstances that would decrease their need, contact our experienced attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC to schedule a consultation.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney

If you are considering seeking a modification of alimony, contact an experienced divorce attorney in the greater Charlotte area of North Carolina to help you understand your legal rights, and how best support a request for an alimony modification that you deserve. Contact an experienced divorce attorney at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704.370.2828 or online today to schedule your consultation.