The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s life upside down. Some people are losing their jobs, some people are working but reduced hours and non-essential businesses have been forced to close. The one thing that has not changed is that child support payments must still be made. While the government is shutting down non-essential public life and announcing a deferral of taxes, it has so far said nothing about child support.
Simply put- If there is a court order to make child support payments, unless and until you have the order varied, you cannot and should not breach the terms of your child support order. COVID-19 does not automatically excuse or justify a deferral or refusal to pay child support.
So what should a parent do if he or she has suffered a COVID-19 job loss and has an ongoing child support obligation? Here are some tips
- Contact the recipient and give them a heads-up immediately! Under the current times, communication is key. Even if you do not communicate with the opposing party on a regular basis, let them know you are facing a difficult time and will not be able to make the full payment. By not saying anything you could be surprising the recipient which can cause far more harm and distress because they will not have had the opportunity to prepare their safety net, or to make arrangements, for getting your child’s needs covered. Having the difficult conversation early on could help resolve potential issues later on.
- If you simply cannot make your support payments, there is a difference between making no payment at all versus paying a portion of what is due. Try to make some payment towards child support. If you are not able to pay the full amount but are making a portion of the payment it shows you are being reasonable and understand your obligation. Work out a payment schedule with the recipient first and then advise the Family Responsibility Office that you are unable to pay the full amount on a temporary basis. The Family Responsibility Office will not be able to change the child support order but at least they are aware of the reason why child support payments are not being made as per the order.
- Document your communication with the recipient to show your effort. If you do reach a temporary arrangement, make sure you confirm it in writing.
- Keep a careful track of your budget during COVID-19 showing exactly how much you are receiving as income, who you have to pay and what your expenses are. If you have savings, you should attempt to make the full child support payment. Remember children you support are dependent on your money, so their needs will be deemed high-priority.
- Keep the lines of communication open. The situation we are in is changing rapidly. Don’t send one text and sit back. If you are able to make a payment next month, let the recipient know as soon as possible.
My focus on family law helps my clients navigate the emotional and financial challenges a family law matter can present. Hussain Law remains fully operational, and I have implemented various technologies that allow me to continue to advise clients seamlessly during this time. If you have a family law issue that you need assistance with, please contact Ayesha Hussain at 647-428-3919 .