The line above is not only a reality, it is a serious problem for anyone involved in Maine’s Family Court system. Before the pandemic, people had career changes and job losses and modifications had to be made to Child Support Orders all the time. The difference now is- THE COURT IS CLOSED UNTIL AT LEAST MAY 1, 2020. Now what?
Right now, the only cases that are getting regularly scheduled hearings are those dealing with people incarcerated for crimes and people seeking Protection orders. See link : https://www.courts.maine.gov/covid19/pmo-sjc-1-3-30-20.pdf Despite the real “emergency” presented to everyone who has a job and obligations to children delineated by Court Order, these are not deemed “emergency” by the Courts. That does not mean, however, that you cannot do something to help your situation.
The process for modifying a Child Support Order is the same: a Motion has to be filed and “served” upon the opposing party. If the Courts were open, the clerks’ office would notify all parties of a date upon which everyone would appear, and the matter would end by agreement or be set for mediation and/or a hearing eventually. The fact is those cases can take months to proceed through the system, and if you are no longer employed, you simply cannot wait.
What many people do not know is that modifications to orders can be entered and made effective very quickly BY AGREEMENT. To be valid, any such agreement needs to be formalized and signed by the Court. Despite the closures, the Court can still sign these modifications now and ease the pressure on those obligated. Clearly not all of these cases can be resolved by agreement, but if no motion to modify is filed for months, then the person obligated to pay will owe that money. In some cases, when modifications are requested by Motion and the facts support such a finding, payments can be retroactively reduced but only to the date of the filed Motion. This means that filing a Motion to Modify sooner rather than later can save you money. Call ATR’s family law team to discuss your options and to see if there is some compromise that can be reached, or whether you should file a Motion to Modify.
Attorney Christopher P. Leddy is one of ATR’s Family Law practitioners.
Read more about Attorney Leddy and contact him here: Link