A Letter To The Unemployed

In Child Support, Spousal Support on December 1, 2008 at 8:44 am

            If you’ve just been laid off, or perhaps have been unemployed for quite a while, it must be very scary, to be reading the papers and watching the news. It’s a cruel reality that the more money you used to make, the longer it will be before your next new job. This means that you must take certain actions immediately to come through this safely.

            For most people being unemployed is a terribly stressful time, and to be facing this holiday season, with what so many pundits feel is going to be a horrendous upcoming year, only adds to the overall anxiety. Rather than simply pile on with all the others, I thought I’d dispense some positive actions that people can take to confront the reality.

            It is a common human desire to ‘whistle past the graveyard’ and ignore the dangers. I don’t recommend it. In my ten years of practice, I’ve had many ex-spouses and non-custodial parents who thought that they could ignore the subject of their spousal/child support issues and they would just go away. It doesn’t really work that way.

            Once a court order is in place, it doesn’t change unless you do something to modify it.  I’ve had several clients come in recently who were looking to revisit their spousal support amounts and their child support amounts based on the fact that they have suffered huge drops in income.

            This has happened on both sides of the divorce, for those who were paying and lost their jobs, they need to get a modification of the amount they owed. The standard for this is a change in circumstance, which is not always an easy thing to prove. For those employees who have an easily replaceable job, being temporarily unemployed is not enough to create a reason to lower support. But for those who have a rare position, it may take much longer to replace your job, and for you, a modification is more readily available, and frankly much more necessary, because odds are you are paying a higher dollar amount each month.

            On the flip side, if you’ve been receiving income in the form of spousal or child support, and have lost your job, you may need to seek an increase to help you make ends meet. This is no time to wait, getting in front of a judge can take weeks and the longer you wait, the longer the pain will last.

            For those who are facing this for the first time, tighten that belt fast. I know you are used to having a weekly cleaning lady do your apartment, and that your child needs to have the tennis pro, the math tutor and the full time nanny. But if you are out of work, you should be spending more time with your child, and your ex-spouse can and will make the argument that they should not be paying for a full-time nanny if you are home.

            Now is the time to bone up on a new skill. I just received the Community Education catalog from Santa Monica College and there are many great, low-cost, classes to help you learn a new skill, and to change your outlook while you are going through a difficult time. Keeping up your spirits, by taking a class, can be a great way to foster that spark that makes an interview go your way. Plus you never know who you will meet in a class that can help you find your next job.

            If there is one thing I’ve learned being my own boss for the better part of the last twenty years it is this; your attitude determines your success. Those times when I was depressed and sure that my company was going to fail, the new clients dried up and it was hell until I changed my view. Those times when I was sure it was going to turn around, if only I did a few small actions, it did.

            It’s a difficult balance to strike, you can’t be a Pollyana and think everything is going to turn out okay and do nothing, but you also can’t be a doom and gloomer. You have to be realistic about where you stand, and how long it will likely take you to get hired again, and you have to maintain a positive outlook.

            I have two books available to help you through this period. My Family Law Handbook is available as a free download from www.mensfamilylaw.com, and in hardcopy for $10.00. I also have an Entrepreneurs Handbook for those who are thinking of starting their own company, it’s also available for $10 by mail.

            No matter what you do, keep in mind Whether you think you will succeed or fail, either way, you are right.” -Henry Ford           

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