How to Modify Spousal and Child Support If You’re Facing Income Losses Now Due to Coronavirus/COVID-19, Hello Divorce

How to Modify Spousal and Child Support If You’re Facing Income Losses Now Due to Coronavirus/COVID-19

Losing your job or small business is devastating, especially if you’re also paying child or spousal support. Just remember that you are not alone. This is happening to people in communities all over the country. There are ways to make adjustments now (and later) so you can continue to make payments, albeit at a level more appropriate for the state of your current income.

In general, keep in mind that any adjustments made to spousal and child support payments will need to go through the court to be enforceable. Hello Divorce can help with the following:

  • Calculating temporary spousal and/or child support
  • Requesting orders for support payments 
  • Changing existing support orders if your divorce has already been finalized

First: Be upfront and honest

As shared in the previous Q&A blog, Will Coronavirus Affect My Divorce?, the best course of action is to talk to your ex directly and explain the situation. Do this even if you’re only anticipating a drastic change in your income.

We’re entering new territory as a nation, and many of us will suffer the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As such, it’s a good idea to make honesty your policy. Let your ex know you want to maintain communication during these uncertain times and that you plan to readjust payments when business picks up again. This should go a long way toward generating goodwill in response to temporarily lower payments.

Remember that your ex is only receiving this money in the first place because they need the support. They will probably need to make adjustments to their own expenditures as a result. The more time you can give them to plan for this adjustment, the better support negotiations will go both now and down the road.

Although it probably goes without saying, it’s also a good idea to demonstrate that you’re adjusting your own daily life so your ex sees that you are also making sacrifices.

Best scenario: A written agreement on your own 

If you and your ex can agree on support adjustments between now and a future court date, a stipulation can be prepared and filed so no court appearance is necessary. As more courts close temporarily, this is ideal for a number of reasons. You’ll be able to stay out of court, and you’ll save time and money by working things out together. 

An important tip: Being mindful of your tone is more important than ever right now. Anything that could be perceived as a demand or a criticism will only serve to shut your ex down. If your ex can’t hear what you’re saying because they’re so focused on how you’re saying it, the conversation will go nowhere. 

Everyone is trying to do what’s best right now. If you’re worried you might be coming across the wrong way as you discuss child or spousal support, address it: “I’m concerned that I wasn’t very articulate just now. I didn’t mean to come across that way. Given this extreme situation, I just want to make sure you know I want to work this out together in a way that makes sense for both of us.”

Once you and your ex agree to the change in support, remember that the agreement must be in writing and prepared as the court requires. If you need or want assistance, the divorce managers at Hello Divorce are ready to help. (Request a quote here.)

RELATED: The Hello Divorce Podcast: Navigating Divorce & Co-parenting During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Can’t agree? File to modify support back to the date your income took a hit

Update April 20, 2020: The State of California (Judicial Council) has implemented Emergency Rule 13, which states that support may be retroactively modified back to the date your unfiled Request for Order (motion) was mailed or otherwise served to your ex or their attorney. Once the court has filed your motion, you must reserve it. 

If straightforward conversation is not an option for you and your ex, consider filing a motion with the court to preserve the right to modify the amount of support you pay back to the date your income took a hit. Doing this will earn you “credit” for support already paid to your ex. We can help you with that

You will need to file with the court for this to happen, and with court closures throughout the state, you may not be able to get a court date to make this adjustment. However, the legal community is hopeful that if filing is unavailable at the time it is needed, the court will make exceptions and perhaps allow for backdated filings.

Also, check your existing court order if you already have one. Sometimes it will require you to “meet and confer” with your ex or their attorney to try to resolve financial issues before resorting to court. It may also require you to notify the other party in writing as soon as something changes with your income. This brings us back to the top takeaway from this post: Spousal and child support adjustments right now will be easiest for you and your ex if you can reach an agreement on your own.

If you end up filing to modify support back to the date your income took a hit, you will hopefully see some financial relief. 

Again, we can help you navigate these changing waters. Just reach out for a quote here. We’re open, and we’re here for you.

Finally, if your income has suffered dearly or you’ve lost your job, know that you are not alone. Resources are being added daily to provide actionable information, advice, and support. Like this one: Your Money: A Hub for Help During the Coronavirus Crisis. It’s free and helpful, and no subscription is needed for The New York Times coronavirus coverage. You’ll find information about unemployment insurance, how to keep the utilities on if you can’t afford them, and where to get free financial planning help.


  1. I am divorced and paying $3,250 per month. I went on unemployment due to covid 19 and would like to do a buy-out with my x to relieve me of future payments.

  2. You lost me at “Remember that your ex is only receiving this money in the first place because they need this support”. No. They are getting it because California says they have a right to receive money for life right now because you were once married. Nothing to do with “needing” the income at all.

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