The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic poses especially difficult personal financial challenges for the millions of people who have lost their jobs, including many individuals here in Las Vegas. Whether unemployment occurs because of Covid-19 or for other reasons, it may affect your obligation to pay child support.
Child support issues relating to unemployment arise in two different situations. The first is when a Nevada court determines the initial amount of a child support obligation. The second involves an individual who is already under a child support court order, becomes unemployed, and wishes to ask the court to modify the existing child support order.
Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten shares all the critical concerns of individuals, families, and businesses arising from Covid-19. During this difficult and stressful time, Attorney Gersten continues to be available to assist existing and new clients with child support and other issues. If The Gersten Law Firm can assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to us by phone or email, or through our online form.
Important information for individuals with any type of new or pending matter in the Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court, which serves Las Vegas and all of Clark County: The Court has issued a number of Administrative Orders relating to operations during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. If you are represented by legal counsel, the best approach is to ask your attorney about the status of your case. Current information about Eighth Judicial District Court Administrative Orders is on the Court’s WordPress site.
On February 1, 2020, new child support regulations went into effect in Nevada. These guidelines represent substantial changes from the previous child support rules and practices. The new regulations apply to all new judicial child support determinations, as well as to requests for modification of existing child support orders.
Our first blog post about the new regulations explains in detail how a court determines the amount of child support in a particular case. Subsequent posts address income for purposes of child support and the role of custody in a child support case.
The new child support rules include a section that specifically relates to situations involving unemployment (NAC 425.125). The section addresses the court’s authority in determining income for child support purposes if an obligor is either unemployed or underemployed.
The section specifically states that if the judge determines based on the evidence that the “obligor is underemployed or unemployed without good cause, the court may impute income to the obligor.” The section goes on to require that if the court imputes income, the judge must take the specific circumstances of the obligor into account. The regulation lists a number of criteria that apply to consideration of the obligor’s situation.
In addition, Section 425.150 of the rules generally addresses the court’s authority to take the economic circumstances of the parties into account in determining child support. That section lists specific factors and findings of fact for the judge to weigh.
The new regulations make it clear that unemployment (or underemployment) will be a factor in a judge’s decision on the issue of child support. In some cases, if evidence indicates there is no good cause for the employment situation, the court can assign additional income to the unemployed or underemployed obligor — which may have negative implications for the obligor.
In addition, under the guidelines generally, a court will take into account any income that an unemployed (or underemployed) obligor receives. That includes amounts being paid by an employer during unemployment (as some employers are doing during Covid-19), government unemployment benefits, and any additional amounts received under special legislation, such as the federal $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Modification of an existing Nevada child support order is subject to specific regulatory and statutory requirements. The regulations, in NAC 425.170, require that any modification or adjustment of a child support order must be based on a “change in circumstances.”
The Nevada statutory provision applicable to a modification request, found at NRS 125B.145, imposes additional requirements. The law states that a person subject to a child support order may request review of the obligation every three (3) years or at any time on the basis of a change in circumstances. For purposes of a change in circumstances, a change of twenty (20) percent or more in the obligor’s gross monthly income constitutes changed circumstances that justify a court review for modification of the order.
Any change in the amount of the obligation in a modification proceeding must be in compliance with the new child support regulations. For child support orders entered before February 1, 2020, that means new (and significantly different) rules will apply to the income calculation and the court’s determination of the child support obligation amount.
The new Nevada child support guidelines include numerous complex provisions that can affect the amount of a child support obligation. Whether your proceeding involves establishment of a new child support order, or you wish to ask for modification based on unemployment or other circumstances, representation by an attorney who understands the new regulations is absolutely essential.
In issuing or modifying a child support order, the judge relies heavily on the evidence introduced by the attorneys representing the parties. Your lawyer makes certain that the judge receives all the evidence that is relevant to your circumstances prior to the final decision. In addition, your attorney ensures that the child support proceedings comply with the specific notice and procedural requirements of Nevada and Clark County laws and rules.
If you face child support issues relating to a new court action or wish to discuss modification of an existing order due to unemployment or other concerns, Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. The Gersten Law Firm assists clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County.
Your initial consultation is always free-of-charge. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.