ADVICE FOR NONCUSTIODAL PARENTS REGARDING SUPPORT PAYMENTS
If you are one of the 7 million Americans with a child support agreement or order, you may be wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect it. The economic effects of the pandemic have made it difficult for some parents to be able to afford to pay child support. However, the law remains unchanged – child support obligations still stand and orders are to be carried out unless there has been a modification.
Let’s clear up a few misunderstandings about child support and COVID-19. Currently, no changes have been made to the laws regarding child support. There is no federal child support COVID relief program in place. Temporary loss of employment is never a reason to stop fulfilling a standing child support order. Even though COVID-19 layoffs are beyond your control, they are not a reason to avoid paying child support. Even if some circumstances are different, and your child may be spending more time in your custody, you cannot ignore your child support order. A parent cannot decide on their own to ignore an ongoing child support arrangement due to COVID-19. There is a process; you can file a motion to modify your current child support obligation. After any permanent change in your employment status, expenses, living situation or responsibilities, you can file a request for a child support modification.
Filing a child support modification is your best option if you find yourself unable to pay child support. However, the courts are back logged and it may be quite a few weeks before you can get your petition in front of a judge. If possible, keep paying your current level of child support. This shows that you are focused on fulfilling your legal obligations and caring for your child, and it can help paint you in the best light in court.
If you find yourself without any funds at all, start by contacting your ex-spouse. Let the other party know about the problem and see if you can agree on a temporary arrangement. They may be willing to work with you and modify the obligation. Note, this is an arrangement, not a permanent change. Nothing changes until the judge signs. Keeping in touch with your child’s other parent throughout your situation, may make it easier to maintain a positive relationship for the sake of your child and may provide an opportunity to resolve the issue of support.