From March to June of 2020, the number of Americans who filed for unemployment was higher than any time in modern history. As of June 20, 2020, approximately 33 million were receiving unemployment benefits. This kind of financial downturn can only add to the list of stressors that affect separating couples.
People often lose their support systems during divorce, but with job loss, they might also lose their homes and assets. Every circumstance is different, and it also depends on which spouse loses their job.
In general, the court’s goal is to ensure that ex-spouses and their children can maintain close to the same lifestyles that they had before the divorce. The court will first need to know the cause for the unemployment and if it was something the spouse did, or if it occurred from circumstances beyond their control.
If the job was lost because of misconduct, that spouse may still be held to the same level of financial responsibility. On the other hand, if the spouse was furloughed because of lack of work, they might have a legitimate claim that they cannot be held to previous income levels. An individual may also be unable to work due to an accident or illness.
In order to decide child custody matters, courts look at what is in the children’s best interests. This includes how well each parent can care for them. Job loss can also alter the amount of time a parent can spend with their kids.
A person who worked a full schedule every day and needed childcare services may now be able to spend this time caring for the children after a job loss. Also, finding a new job that requires weekend work could also change child custody arrangements.
In equitable distribution states like Pennsylvania, job loss during divorce could impact how the court divides up marital estates. Fair divisions are not necessarily equal in these cases, and final decisions are influenced by each spouse’s current and potential earning power.
Rather than adhering to state guidelines, alimony is generally based on the dependent spouse’s need for payments from the supporting spouse. This is so the dependent spouse can maintain the same standard of living that they were accustomed to during the marriage.
If the dependent spouse becomes unemployed, they will rely even more on alimony from the supporting spouse. If the supporting spouse loses their job, they may not be able to pay alimony at all.
There are ways to manage turbulent times and it starts with looking at things realistically. Anyone who loses their job can start looking for work right away, but during a divorce, it is essential to keep records of all job search activities. Evidence can include things like meetings with recruiters and interviews. Also, it can be helpful to obtain news articles about company-wide closures or layoffs. It is also best to seek similar employment rather than downsizing to a lower-paying job or trying for positions that one is underqualified for.
Now is also the time to be open to negotiations regarding spousal and child support. Hopefully, one’s period of unemployment will be temporary, so maintaining a civil relationship can set a good tone for the future when one’s financial situation is improved.
Being flexible about childcare, carpooling, and even reductions in monetary support are all options that may be necessary for the time being. Also, legal counsel will be able to assist in any divorce-related modifications.
If you or your ex-spouse suffered a job loss during your divorce, our trusted West Chester divorce lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help. For an initial consultation, call us at 610-565-3701 or complete our online form. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, and we help families throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.
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