Paying Child Support & Alimony During the Federal Government Shutdown
The United States federal government shutdown that began on December 22nd, 2018 has hundreds of thousands of federal employees wondering how they will pay their bills. Some are wondering whether the shutdown will affect their child support and alimony (spousal support).
Children Are First Priority in Maryland
If you have not been receiving pay during the government shutdown, you are likely feeling the financial squeeze. Under Maryland law, supporting your minor children is considered first priority. Even if you have a limited amount of money, child support takes precedence over all other financial obligations, including your rent or mortgage payment, and utilities.
Evaluating Your Ability to Pay
Although the shutdown has made paying child support and spousal support more difficult, you must continue making these payments unless you have an actual inability to pay. An actual inability to pay means that you are not receiving income, and either have no savings or have completely exhausted your savings. If you can show an actual inability to pay, then a court cannot hold you in contempt for not paying.
However, if you have any savings (and therefore, the ability to pay), a judge can hold you in contempt of court for failing to pay child support or spousal support. If you have no income due to the shutdown and no savings, but must choose between paying child support or alimony, pay the child support first because Maryland courts have made clear that child support has first priority.
Ways to Save Money
If you are a federal worker who has been forced to stay home due to the government shutdown, there could be a bright spot. You may be able to save money by temporarily taking your child out of day care or aftercare programs by having the child stay with you during the day or picking them up after school. Discuss this option with the child’s other parent and their care providers to see whether this could alleviate some expenses during the shutdown.
Hopefully the current federal government shutdown, and the hardship it has caused many, will end soon. If it does continue, talk with an attorney or child support case specialist about filing a motion for modification of child support. If your child support is taken directly from your paycheck by your employer, contact your county’s office of child support enforcement to ensure you remain in compliance.
Speak to an Experienced Maryland Attorney
If you have any questions about child support or alimony, contact Christy A. Zlatkus, Esquire at Z Family Law.