As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread through our communities and shut down our social, professional, and commercial life, many of us are facing new and unforeseen complications regarding custody and child support. Questions like: Do I still have to pay child support if I'm laid off? Can I pay less than the agreed-upon amount? And What happens if my ex stops paying child support? Are all becoming increasingly relevant to a growing number of New Mexican Families. Find out what you need to know about COVID-19 and Child Support in New Mexico.
New Mexico Child Support Laws
In New Mexico, Child Support is governed by statute and based on the principles of need and ability to pay. The most pertinent statute on child support, known as the child support guidelines, is found at NMSA 40-4-11.1. It provides two worksheets that calculate child support, worksheet A and worksheet B. Worksheet A is used when the child resides with one parent primarily and the noncustodial parent has the child less than 35% of the time over the course of a year. Worksheet B, on the other hand, is used in shared custody situations. Essentially, this means that the more time a parent spends with a child means that less child support is paid.
How is it Calculated?
As you can imagine, child support can get complex when applied to individual cases. For example, how is time calculated if you decide to meet the 35% threshold? Some calculate this time based on overnights, while others look at an entire 365-day calendar. Additionally, it’s important to note exactly what factors are used to determine child support. Child support in New Mexico is calculated using the gross incomes of each party, meaning the income that each party earns before taxes. While this may appear straightforward, consider how do you handle overtime? Work-related benefits like gas reimbursement, company expense cards? What about a self-employed person? Remember, according to NMSA 40-4-11.1, all income is to be considered, including rental income, dividend income, and investment income. In addition to the calculation of income, the guidelines also consider costs associated with medical insurance for the child, extraordinary expenses (ie: medications), and private school costs or daycare expenses. Once you realize this, you’ll understand that child support is essentially a mathematical calculation based on income and support contribution, not a legal argument or loophole.
Do I Have To Continue to Pay if I’m Laid Off Due to COVID-19?
As businesses continue to shut down across the state, more and more New Mexicans are being laid off or furloughed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While the state and the federal government has made access to unemployment benefits easier and has plans to send money to individuals and families, many people will still struggle to make their child support payments. So do they have to keep paying under these extraordinary instructions? The answer is yes, you still have to make your child support payments. If you are laid off and your child support was automatically deducted from your paycheck, you need to make arrangements to pay that amount directly to the custodial parent. That being said, you still have options.
How Can I Change My Child Support Payments if I'm Laid Off?
If you find yourself unable to pay your child support, there are things you can do to get relief from unaffordable payments. Because losing your job is a substantial change in circumstance, you can file a Motion to Modify Child Support with the courts. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible so that you can get the financial relief you deserve. In most cases, a significant change in income is enough to warrant a modification. The proposed change in the child support calculation has to deviate from the current child support obligation by 20% or more in order for the change to occur. If you have lost your job, you more than likely will qualify for a modification. Because Family Law courts are currently closed, if you absolutely cannot pay in the interim, you can try to come to an informal agreement with the custodial parent to lower your child support payment. Remember, even if the other party agrees to a change in child support, you still must draft and file a formal motion and go before the judge to get it approved. If not, you can still be Genus Law's experienced child support lawyers who can assess your case to see if you qualify for a modification in child support. If you do, our firm can draft the paperwork and get you the child support payment that fits your life and current circumstances. Genus Law offers case strategy sessions so you can discuss your options with an Albuquerque divorce, custody, and child support attorney.
What Can I Do If My Ex Stops Paying Child Support?
If the other parent of your child stops paying child support or starts paying less without a formal court order, you too have options. You should contact an attorney right away to file a Motion to Enforce the MSA or Parenting Plan. This motion can legally compel the other parent to start complying with the court order. Even if they have lost their jobs, they are still required to pay child support, even if it is modified to a lower amount. To prevent this modification, you should consult an attorney to discuss your best options. Due to the current pandemic, Genus Law is now offering free video or telephone consultations, even on weekends.
Are There Exceptions?
Cases involving high-income couples (couples who make more than $30,000 combined per month) are treated differently. In these cases, many factors and standards come into play that can significantly impact the final child support calculation and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The final exception to the standard A and B child support worksheets is known as a “deviation”. New Mexico law allows for a deviation from the statutory guidelines for good cause. This is usually done when there is a substantial hardship arising from the application of the guidelines. For example, a couple may stipulate a lower or higher child support amount in exchange for concessions on different aspects of the divorce.
In the end, every child support case is different so if you have questions, call Genus Law Group today to set up your consultations to discuss your concerns and find the best child support outcome for you and your family.