Pursuant to the State of New Hampshire’s orders due to concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, many businesses are shut down and employees are out of work. While the federal and state governments are working on stimulus packages and the expansion of unemployment benefits, parties that are subject to Court orders for child support and/or alimony may want to take some additional steps.
NH RSA 458-C:7 permits parties to seek a modification of a child support order any time there has been a substantial change in circumstances. The modification can become effective on the date a party has provided “notice” of the request to modify to the other party. “Notice” means service on the other party or acceptance of service by the other party.
NH RSA 458:19-aa permits parties to seek a modification of an alimony order when there has been a substantial and unforeseeable change of circumstances since the alimony order was entered.
The Court has created a straightforward process to seek a modification of child support or alimony. To seek a modification, a party needs to prepare and file a Personal Data Sheet and a Petition to Change Court Order with the Court. These forms can be found on the Court’s website, https://www.courts.state.nh.us/fdpp/forms/index.htm. As the Court will need to re-open the original divorce or parenting case to address the modification request, the filing party will be required to pay a $252.00 filing fee. If circumstances warrant, a Motion to Waive Filing Fee can also be filed asking the Court to allow a party to file for a modification without paying the filing fee. A completed and signed Financial Affidavit must be filed at the same time. These forms can also be found on the Court’s website.
After the documents are filed with the Court and a case is opened, the Court will issue instructions to have the other party served. Once the other party has been served, a child support hearing will be scheduled.
Although it is true that no hearings will be scheduled until at least May 4, 2020, due to COVID-19, it is still important to get the Petition to Change Court Order filed now. If a Petition is not filed, the support obligation will continue to be owed and a substantial arrearage can be accrued. Between the time of filing the Petition to Change Court Order and receipt of the Court’s Orders, parties need to do the best they can to fully comply with the child support or alimony orders. A Court will not be happy to see a party eating out, making large purchases, etc. while not paying his/her support obligations.
Private agreements between parties suspending the obligation to pay child support are not enforceable unless approved by the Court. If you and your child’s other parent reach an agreement to suspend or modify the child support obligation, you must file a new Uniform Support Order with the Court. Otherwise, the full amount of your obligation will be owed.
If you need help seeking a modification of your court-ordered support obligations, the family law attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay have the experience necessary to assist you. Contact us today.