Do I Really Have To Pay Equitable Distribution Payments In A Financial Crisis?

Given the current financial climate due to COVID-19, many people are concerned about how they are going to meet their support obligations. We have already addressed what you can do to potentially alleviate the financial burdens of alimony and child support in another blog , which you can find . What relief can you get if you have equitable distribution obligations in your settlement agreement?

Your first resource to answer this question is to carefully review your settlement agreement. You are always bound by the provisions of your settlement agreement. Does your obligation contain any contingencies? Is there an escape hatch allowing you to relax or modify your obligation if certain financial conditions are met? If you do not know how to interpret the provisions of your agreement, you should consult with an attorney to help you do that.

If you are certain you do not have any provisions in your settlement agreement that allow you to seek relief from your payment obligations, the general rule is that equitable distribution provisions of a settlement agreement are not modifiable.

That said, that doesn’t mean it is impossible. My first suggestion would be to make an effort to resolve the issue amicably. If you do not have an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse, or even the kind of a relationship that would allow you to have a civil conversation, that may be a little more difficult. It may require that you attend mediation or go through attorneys. However, it is still not impossible to reach an agreement.

Chances are, your ex-spouse knows very well that his or her only recourse if and when you do not meet your payment obligations is to file a motion to enforce them. Most people do not want to engage in motion practice. It’s very expensive, it’s time consuming, and there is an emotional cost. So they may be willing to compromise to some degree to move past this, particularly if they know they aren’t going to get the money anyway because you simply don’t have it.

You should consider what you would be willing to offer. Know what are you asking for. Are you asking for a short period of time to suspend your payment obligations? Are you asking for total relief from your payment obligations? If you are asking for the latter, chances are that it’s not going to be met with a resounding yes. But if you are simply asking to relax the payment obligations to give yourself some more time until your financial crisis has passed, that may be met with less resistance.

There are always creative ways to resolve these kinds of disputes. A creative attorney can discuss all the facts and circumstances of your current situation, evaluate your needs as well as the needs of your ex-spouse and determine whether there is a creative solution that can satisfy both of you. This is where the real skill and experience of an attorney becomes important. This is not the of situation that would be well-served by an inexperienced family law attorney.

If you find yourself in this predicament and need some counsel on creative solutions to get you through this tough spot, contact the professionals at Netsquire – Previte Nachlinger, P.C. for a consultation. You can contact us .

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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