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The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard for millions of people across the country including many people in Iowa. Thousands in Iowa have faced being laid off or terminated from their employment due to the pandemic. 

While you may be able to call your bank to negotiate payments in the event that you are laid off or terminate, the same is not true for child or spousal support. Generally speaking, there are no exceptions to support obligations in times of pandemic or natural disaster. So long as a court order remains in place and hasn’t been suspended, the spouse obligated to pay (known as the “Obligor”) must fulfill his or her obligation.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard for millions of people across the country including many people in Iowa. Thousands in Iowa have faced being laid off or terminated from their employment due to the pandemic. 


While you may be able to call your bank to negotiate payments in the event that you are laid off or terminate, the same is not true for child or spousal support. Generally speaking, there are no exceptions to support obligations in times of pandemic or natural disaster. So long as a court order remains in place and hasn’t been suspended, the spouse obligated to pay (known as the “Obligor”) must fulfill his or her obligation.  


Should the Obligor not be able to pay their child or spousal support obligation, the person owed (known as the “Obligee”) can file a contempt action. In a contempt action, the Obligee states that the Obligor has willfully violated the court order that established the child or spousal support obligation. Should the Obligee succeed in this action, the Obligor could face harsh punishment, including jail time. Because of this harsh punishment, if you find yourself laid off or terminated due to Covid-19 and unable to meet your child or spousal support obligation, you need to take immediate steps to create a plan to fulfill your obligation. 


What to do if you can’t meet your Child or Spousal Support Obligations due to Covid-19 


A simple first step would be to contact the Obligee and explain the financial hardship. The Obligee depends on the financial support, and will likely be worried about how they can make ends meet without the support. In having this conversation, be sure to explain the circumstances behind your situation. Why you were laid off or terminated, whether it is temporary or permanent, and when you believe you might be able to get back to work. Providing additional information about what steps you could take to fulfill your obligations. This could involve liquidating property you own, including vehicles, real estate, stocks/investments, etc. You may be entitled to unemployment or an exit package from your current employer. This may also help you meet your support obligation. 


The next step to take in this process for the Obligor is to negotiate with the Obligee what payment they can make for the time being. Because any child support is considered a gift under Iowa law, it is best to pay the Obligee support via the clerk of court in the county where the obligation was created or to pay through the Collection Cervices Center. Keep records of all communications with the Obligee about interim support is key. You do not want prior agreements being walked back all because they weren’t recorded in any manner.  


Under Iowa law, to modify a child or spousal support obligation, you have to show a substantial change of circumstances has occurred that was not within the contemplation of the court at the time support was established. Certainly, it is too early to tell how Covid-19 will be treated by courts as a circumstance, but the potential for prolonged unemployment will absolutely be considered and help your chances of receiving a modification of support.  


To conclude, should you face termination or being laid off from Covid-19 and are obligated to pay child or spousal support, the key components to move forward are as follows: 


  1. Communicate your situation with the Obligee 
  2. Save communications and records regarding your termination, communications, etc.
  3. Should your circumstances make you unable to pay the support long term, use the above information to request a modification of support. 

Posted 
November 23, 2020
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