What If I Can’t Pay My Maryland/D.C. Alimony or Child Support?

Gavel and dollars

If you can’t pay your court-ordered alimony and/or child support, first, tell your ex-spouse and, second, tell the Maryland or D.C. divorce court asking for a modification of the amount that you are required to pay. These are some immediate steps to take, and they should be taken when you first begin to have financial difficulty in paying your Maryland or District of Columbia (“D.C.”) alimony and/or child support. Act quickly because matters only get worse if you begin falling behind on payments. It is much better NOT to fall behind in your payments. Once you fall behind, you have two problems: reducing ongoing payment obligations and, somehow, paying what is past due (also known as “arrearages”).

If you have questions about how to handle a situation where you can’t pay your alimony and/or child support, the Maryland and D.C. divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl are here for you and ready to help.

The best solution to the problem of not being able to pay alimony and child support is to seek a modification of the required payments from the Maryland/D.C. divorce court. That process takes some time, so if you have some warning that you will be losing your job, begin the process in advance. Note that unemployment benefits will count as “income,” so you may not receive immediate relief from the court. You will have to complete income and expense forms when you ask for a modification. You will also need to present copies of paystubs, bank statements, retirement documents, tax returns, unemployment benefits statements, and the like. Obtaining a modification of your payment obligations is an involved process, so plan ahead.

The reason for this complicated process is that the courts require that there be a “substantial and material change in circumstances” before the court will consider a modification. Losing one’s job is an example of a “substantial and material” change, but only if you were not the cause of the job loss. If you quit, that will be considered a voluntary action that will not lead to a reduction in your alimony and child support obligations. Essentially, the court will feel that if you quit, then you have an obligation to get another job. Note that you cannot reduce your alimony and/or child support obligations through any sort of bankruptcy proceeding or other debt relief program.

If your ex-spouse is in agreement or sympathetic to your need to reduce payment obligations, that will help with obtaining a modification from the court. But, it is not enough to obtain an agreement from your spouse. You still must obtain a new Order from the court (or, if you do not, then a substantial future risk exists that, at some point, you may be required to pay those accumulating arrearages).

Maryland And D.C. Family Law Attorneys

Contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and D.C. family law lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl for more information. We have the skills and expertise you need. We have proven experience with family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.

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