The coronavirus pandemic has made life challenging for all of us on some front, whether economically, socially, or emotionally. Many have lost jobs due to companies closing their doors or have been instructed to stay home from work because of their high-risk status. This has led to increased anxiety and frustration as people scramble to figure out how to pay bills and feed their families with little or no income.
One segment of the public expressing concern due to financial loss and uncertainty are those responsible for paying child support. For many affected by job loss or reduced hours, continuing to keep up with former levels of support specified in enforcement orders has become difficult, if not impossible.
In these situations where payment is a challenge, what recourse do parents have? Although laws vary from state to state, if you are struggling with paying child support during these times, here is some information to help you better understand your options.
Factors to Consider When Seeking Relief
When it comes to difficulties with making child support payments, it is best to take a proactive approach. If there is an enforcement order against you and you cannot pay, you may be able to take several courses of action. This may include trying to get your child support modified – but you must be forthcoming and act as soon as possible.
Try Your Best to Pay
Everyone's situation is different, so you should consider your specific financial circumstances. If the current crisis has caused a change in your income, but you can still meet your support obligations, it is best to do so. This plan may require taking a closer look at your budget and rearranging certain items to continue your payments. Still, it may be more beneficial in the long term to avoid negative consequences, especially if the court does not grant you relief.
Modifying Your Support Order
Just because you may have lost your job or qualify for unemployment, that doesn't mean the court will automatically decide that paying child support is a hardship for you and give you a break. There are a few factors that come into play:
You must notify the court – If you want the court to modify your child support agreement, you must let them know what is going on with your situation. It is your responsibility to file a modification petition. This should be done as soon as possible because your arrears balance will continue to accrue until this paperwork is filed and granted.
Change in circumstances – One of the main determinants regarding whether the court might agree to modify or pause your child support payments has to do with the change in circumstances you have experienced. However, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate why your current circumstances make it 9difficult to make the required payments. But there are a couple of things you can do to show the long-term nature of your income loss while providing evidence of good faith:
- Document your efforts to secure new employment (whether successful or not).
- If you were able to find a new job, but the salary is not comparable to your previous employment, you want to be able to present this to the court.
Negotiate with the Other Party
Being honest about your lack of ability to pay with the other party and striking an agreement for modification can be another option. However, this arrangement should be made with an attorney's assistance so that the agreement between you and the other party can be filed with the court. Otherwise, the current enforcement order will continue to be valid.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
As a parent, you want to support your child in any way you can. But if you have experienced the fallout of this present crisis in the form of a lost job or reduction in pay, you may be finding it hard to meet your child support responsibilities.
If you know that you can't comply with the child support order, contact our office to explain your change in circumstances. Taking action could benefit you by relieving you of penalties associated with a lack of payment, such as being reported to credit agencies or incarceration. To speak to a qualified attorney about your case, please contact the Law Office of Jana K. Jones today for a confidential consultation.