There are many sad realities that we are all dealing with during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, most of us know someone or know of someone who had contracted the virus and lost the battle. The numbers of people getting sick and passing are frightening.
The primary reason for social distancing and staying at home is not to overwhelm the hospitals and healthcare workers who have been working around the clock. These doctors, nurses, and everyone in the field are putting themselves in harms way to heal the sick and ease the suffering of those who have contracted the virus as well as those loved ones who cannot visit family members who have been hospitalized.
Social distancing and shutting down all non-essential services have had many unintended consequences, such as people losing their jobs or being furloughed for the duration of the pandemic. People have lost their income, and in many cases, their health insurance.
For divorced parents, social distancing is also causing other issues, such as lost parenting time. For those that have lost their jobs, there are also issues with paying their child support.
The issue is that even if you have lost your job, you still must pay your child support. It is a legal requirement that you cannot avoid. Even the legal process of bankruptcy does not remove the requirement of paying child support.
In normal times, if you lose a job or your financial situation changes, you can petition the courts for a modification to your payments so they are more in line with what your income levels are. We are currently living through times that are anything but normal, and we have no idea how much longer this is going to continue.
With the courts closed, except for emergencies, there is no guarantee that the courts will be able to act on your request for modification promptly.
If you have been laid off, you will need to show documentation that your loss of work was not voluntary, and that you are working to find new employment.
During this time, finding new employment can be challenging, so you should document everything you have been doing during this period, including things related to work, such as taking additional online training.
If your circumstances have changed, you should inform your ex-spouse. You may also decide on a temporary agreement until this crisis is over, especially if you have been furloughed as opposed to laid-off. If your relationship with your ex is not such that you can have this discussion, your best bet is to call our office and discuss the issue with an experienced family law attorney.
Remember that while you can work with your ex to come up with an agreeable support plan, the safety and well-being of the child cannot be compromised. Also, the new agreement would have to be accepted by a family court judge and added to your original divorce decree. Even though child support would then be an amount you have agreed to, it does become a legal requirement. Just because you negotiated the amount without the courts, it does not mean the payments are optional or can be stopped at any time.
If you have any questions about child support payments or any family law concerns during this uncertain time, call the Law Office of Anthony LoPresti for a consultation.