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Child Support

Navigating Child Support During COVID

With the latest news from California Governor Gavin Newsome shutting down all “non-essential” businesses starting March 17, 2020, in the six local bay area counties, many parents may be wondering how to keep up with their child support payments during a time of possible unemployment.

Some of my clients are lucky enough to be working for businesses that can afford to pay them during this chaotic time. However, many are not so lucky. Many businesses that were mandated to close are receiving little to no profit, which means they don’t have any money to pay their employees. Many of these employees relied on their paychecks to pay their support.

But when it comes to child support, unfortunately, you are still obligated to pay even during times of unemployment, absent a modification of the order.

So, the question remains: how am I supposed to pay support if I don’t have any income?

COVID-19 has led to completely uncharted territory as every person in society is struggling to navigate through these unfamiliar waters. The best thing we can do right now is to take bits of what we do know and piece together the best practices. While the lockdown is scheduled to end in April 2020, rumors have been circulating that it could be extended. We all need to prepare and adjust to what might become our new “normal,” at least for the time being.

Work Out a Temporary Agreement

One solution to this issue is to reach out to the other parent and let them know about your situation. Family Courts encourage successful co-parenting and the best practices to effective co-parenting is effective communication.

Talk to your co-parent and discuss a possible agreement to modify your current payment amount. And if there is an agreement, put this in writing. Place a date the modification support will start and how much support will be. Put in an end date, or a date where you will revisit the topic to discuss it again. Be as clear as possible to make sure that both parents are on the same page.

Now is the time to be creative in finding solutions. If you’re a parent expecting support, be understanding and reasonable. Consider pausing payments for the time being. Lower the payments to an amount that leaves the payor with enough money to finance their own basic needs. Create a modified payment plan. Allow your co-parent to send groceries instead of paying support. Flexibility is the key to getting through this difficult time.

Typically, until a judge signs off on an agreement, you are still obligated to comply with your current court orders. We can help you work out a reasonable agreement with the other party and prepare a written agreement.

Seek an Immediate Modification of Support

Amid a global crisis, it won’t be a surprise to anyone to see the downturn of the economy or a jumpstart to a recession. While many people are enjoying a break from the hustle and bustle of work, most families, especially Bay Area families, live paycheck to paycheck and have no idea how they are going to pay their bills. If businesses are forced to close after what could be months of a shutdown, the effects of COVID-19 will be long-lasting as most people find themselves without employment.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are financially incapable of making child support payments because of unemployment and you cannot reach an agreement with the other party to lower support, do not wait to file a request to modify the child support amount. The longer you wait, the more back payments you will owe.

Family Code § 3653 states that “an order modifying or terminating a support order may be made retroactive to the date of filing of the notice of motion or order to show cause to modify to terminate or to any subsequent date.”

Thus, the advantage of filing as immediately as possible is that the Courts have the authority to apply a new support order retroactively to the date of filing the request. However, they do not have the authority to apply the order back to the date of unemployment. Thus, the only way to preserve your rights is by filing a motion as soon as possible. Although the Courts are currently closed, some Courts are still accepting filings.

We can help you work out an agreement with the other party or if an agreement cannot be reached, we can help you prepare and file a request with the Courts to modify your support payments.

Keep You Informed

Every day of this lockdown has been flooded with updates from medical staff, the government, and friends and family. The rumor currently circulating the mill is that the Federal Government is working on a bill that will provide a paycheck of $1,000.00 to many Americans. This bill is still being passed through Congress and the details of this bill have not been provided to the public yet.

This emergency stimulus plan is a huge relief to all of those who desperately need support in this time of need. Keep your eye out on this bill as it could be one avenue to help fulfill your support obligations.

And as always, be kind to one another. Kindness will be the key to surviving this pandemic together.

Posted March 24, 2020

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