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Are the Effects of COVID a Reason to Stop Paying Child Support?

Can You Stop Paying Child Support Due to COVID-19?

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 quite tricky for some parents to be able to afford to pay child support. However, the law remains clear that child support obligations still stand and orders are to be complied with unless a separate order provides otherwise.

Will the Court Allow You to Stop Paying Child Support During COVID-19?

First, it is important to clear up a few misunderstandings about child support and COVID-19. Currently, no changes have been made to the law in New Jersey 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. Whether your child support amount was court-ordered or worked out in an agreement with a divorce attorney, you still must pay it. Even if some circumstances are different currently, such as, your child spending more time in your custody, you cannot ignore your child support order.

The court is not offering any automatic exemption on child support requirements because children still need to be cared for. The reasoning is that the parent of primary residence still must feed, clothe and care for their children, even if they have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Therefore, the parent of alternate residence is still obligated to fulfill their financial responsibilities. If you fail to pay child support when owed, you may face several consequences, including:

  • Garnishment of your wages and unemployment
  • Confiscation of tax refunds
  • Being found in contempt of court
  • Having a warrant issued for your arrest
  • Getting your passport and various licenses revoked
  • Getting a lien placed on your car, home or other property
  • Being excluded from government benefits

How to Modify An Existing Child Support Agreement During COVID-19

A parent cannot decide on his or her own to ignore an ongoing child support arrangement due to COVID-19. However, this may not mean an impoverished parent will be forced to spend beyond his or her means. We have a process by which you can file a motion seeking to modify your current child support obligation. After any permanent change in your employment status, expenses, living situation or responsibilities, we can file a request for a child support modification.

To do this, the parent paying child support must present a request for modification to family court, explaining why you believe the child support award should be changed. The court may also take into account what is reasonable and equitable for the parents. After an examination of your case and finances, the court will make a ruling on how child support should be handled.

A child support modification application is a valuable tool for families struggling during COVID-19. A parent can use it to ask for a lower child support amount if he or she has lost his or her job or is low on funds. If you have taken over custody of a child, you can also ask for lower child support payments since you are now paying more of the child’s day-to-day expenses. A parent can also use a modification order to request more child support. If you are the custodial parent and your child has new medical or childcare expenses due to COVID-19, you can ask for more help covering these costs.

What to Do if You Cannot Pay Child Support Due To Covid-19

As you can see, filing a child support modification application is your best option if you find yourself unable to pay child support. However, the courts are extremely busy right now, and it may be quite a few weeks before a family lawyer can get your petition in front of a judge. What should you do until then? 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 him or her know about the problem and see if you can agree on a temporary arrangement. He or she may be willing to work with you and modify the obligation. Keeping in touch with your child’s other parent throughout your situation, whether in person or through their attorney, 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.

How to Handle a Parent Who Is Not Making Their Child Support Payments

If you are the party receiving child support, COVID-19 may affect your financial abilities. Many parents report that they are struggling to maintain provide care because their children’s other parent is refusing or unable to pay child support. If this happens to you, there are legal options for obtaining the support you need.

You can start by contacting a family law attorney. A divorce lawyer can help you go over the existing child support arrangement to see what payments are owed to you. If the payments are being made through Family Support Services, you can also contact that office for help.

Depending on your situation, Family Support Services can help track down your child’s other parent or get child support taken directly from his or her paycheck. However, you will need to be patient as there is a backlog in some areas now due to COVID-19, and it can take time for your case to be reviewed. While you wait to receive the child support you are owed, you may want to look for government assistance or ask your child’s parent for partial child support payments.

If you are experiencing child support difficulties during COVID-19, Lawrence Law is here to help. We specialize in matrimonial, divorce and family law, so our team of divorce lawyers can help you find a child support arrangement that works for your whole family. With law offices in Watchung and Red Bank, it is easy to get in touch with us. Call (908) 645-1000 or email info@lawlawfirm.com or jlawrence@lawlawfirm.com to set up a consultation today.

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