Yesterday, news broke that Jeremy Renner, well known for his role as Hawkeye, asked the Los Angeles court to lower his child support payments as a result of his unexpected financial strain from the coronavirus. The Marvel actor claims that his income will be substantially lower due to the fact that the film and television industry has either cancelled or postponed filming due to the coronavirus. As a result, he is asking the court to modify his child support obligation.
Renner’s situation is not unlike that of many Americans across the country who may find themselves unemployed due to the shutdown of some businesses as states attempt to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus. But, is unemployment enough to request the court to modify your child support obligation? The answer in New Jersey is not that straight forward.
New Jersey case law requires a parent seeking a modification in child support to demonstrate a change in circumstances. That change, however, is generally not one that can only be temporary. Thus, a parent who loses their job under ordinary circumstances must demonstrate that it is not solely a short-term loss in order for their child support obligation to be modified. Evidence of a parent’s diligent efforts to secure new employment must be presented. In addition, if a parent is unable to find comparable employment to his or her prior position but is able to find employment that results in a reduction in income, that parent should be prepared to provide the court with evidence of their good-faith efforts.
Currently, coronavirus has halted many business in the State of New Jersey – but no one knows when things will get back to normal. As a result, if you have recently lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic, requesting a modification of child support may be premature. But these are extraordinary times and the Court may look at applications with a different eye. If you are worried that you will not be able to find comparable employment, make sure to document your efforts so that a Court may be able to provide you with relief during these uncertain times.