January 2009 Archives

January 12, 2009

Divorce and the Economy, Part 3: Modifying Child Support

Along with the other woes of the current economy, many people's employment has been affected by layoffs or hour and pay reductions. If you're one of those people and you're responsible for paying child or spousal support that is now going to be more difficult to afford, make sure you act quickly to avoid ending up in deep financial trouble.

It is possible to modify child support payments, which are based on the income of both parents as well as the amount of time children spend with each parent. If any factor in that equation changes, you can ask for a change in support as well. First, go directly to your ex-spouse and see whether you can reach an agreement to modify the amount of support being paid, and whether there's anything you can do to make up for the loss of support, like spending some of your newfound free time watching the kids so your spouse can work or save on child care costs.

If your ex doesn't see things the way you do, you may have to ask a court to modify support. Child support guidelines are set by state law and courts don't tend to deviate much from them, so if you're really earning less, you're likely to succeed in getting support changed. (You can check out a free child support calculator for your state to see what your support should be, based on your current income and timeshare.) But the judge will want to know what you're doing to find replacement work and may schedule you to come back to court to show how things are progressing.

Don't delay on this. Child support arrearages are serious business, and if you become delinquent you are at risk of losing your drivers' license, passport, and professional licenses.  

Spousal support is a different story. If you have an obligation to pay alimony, it's likely that your final divorce judgment or settlement agreement defines when that obligation ends. If it doesn't say that losing your job or income is a reason for support to end or change, then generally, you're stuck paying until the obligation is done.

For more, see these FAQs on modifying child support, on child support generally, and on spousal support (alimony).

January 8, 2009

Kidneys and Custody: A Tale of the Low Road

Obviously, this story is already all over the blogosphere. It's too good to resist -- a man gave a kidney to his wife, and now that they're divorcing, he says he wants it back.

This is, of course, ridiculous. First, it's so clearly medically wrong and so unethical that no doctor would do it. Second, there's no legal basis for requiring the return of something that could only be given as a gift (it's illegal to sell organs). Third, his request for $1.5 million in lieu of the kidney if she won't give the organ back fails for the same reason -- it would be the equivalent of paying for the organ.

But the kidney isn't the real issue after all, according to Newsday's interview with the husband and his attorney, who said that "of course" the guy doesn't really want his kidney back. Rather, he wants to "draw attention to her not allowing him agreed-upon visitation with the couple's three children..." So the request for the kidney is a publicity stunt to support his allegations in their custody fight.

Sigh. When will parents grow up, learn to put their kids first, and keep their custody issues out of the courts -- not to mention the tabloids? I guess it's not going to be in 2009.

January 7, 2009

Divorce and the Economy, Part 2: The Housing Market, Again

A year after this post on the housing market and divorce, the situation is even more grim for divorcing couples trying to sell a house or complete an inter-spousal buyout. A New York Times article profiles a number of couples in difficult situations resulting from depreciation in the value of their homes, and notes the trend of couples staying together -- or at least continuing to live together -- as discussed in Divorce and the Economy, Part I, because they simply can't afford to get divorced. I'm not sure how much more there is to say about this -- it's a tough situation and these are tough times. More soon about the effect of the economy on couples divorcing and divorced.