If you’re one of the millions of Americans out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may be wondering how it’ll affect your child support obligations. Whether you’ve lost your job or had your hours cut, if your take-home income has changed significantly, it will likely impact your ability to pay child support.
While it may be tempting to ignore your child support payments in hopes that something will soon change, it’s imperative that you work on finding a solution now. No good parent wants to stop paying child support, but circumstances for everyone are changing and rapidly.
We’re all in crisis mode due to the coronavirus pandemic, but for workers who have been laid off or who have lost income, it’s even worse. COVID-19 has devastated industries like tourism, sports, entertainment, and retail, so it may be nearly impossible for you to secure another job in your field in a timely manner. And what does that mean for shared custody agreements? Do noncustodial parents still have to pay child support during the coronavirus pandemic?
The party required to pay support is generally not entitled to unilaterally decide that for themselves. The support-paying parent must ask the court to modify their obligation based upon a change in circumstances, which in this case would be the loss of their job due to the coronavirus.” It would then be up to the court on how to rule. You must follow the existing order until a new order is signed by the judge.
You are still responsible for making such payments. According to the Texas Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division, “Even if you are having trouble making your full payment, it is important to pay as much as you can toward your obligation every month.”
It’s quite a stressful situation to find yourself in, but there are things you can do to make it less difficult. Failure to act quickly could result in you experiencing unnecessary legal trouble. Here are some steps you can take to reach a resolution.
Look at your other assets
Do you have money in a savings or retirement account? You may want to leave it untouched, but if you have access to other funds that could be used for child support, it may be a wise idea to use that money to fulfill your legal obligations with child support. Remember, if you fail to pay child support, you could face serious consequences like pay garnishment, losing your driver’s license, a hit to your credit score, and even criminal prosecution.
Communicate with your co-parent
Whether you choose to communicate with your co-parent directly or through an attorney, it’s important to make sure they’re aware of the change in your financial situation. You’ll want to make sure that any changes to your child support obligations are filed with the court system, as unofficial agreements are much harder to enforce. Still, keeping open lines of communication can help ensure that conversations about child support remain amicable.
Talk to an attorney
Budgeting for an attorney is likely not at the top of your list of things to do after a layoff, but it’s important that you touch base with a lawyer with knowledge about your state’s family law to discuss your options and prepare yourself for possible legal outcomes. If your ex-spouse or co-parent relies on your support to financially care for your child, they’ll likely be eager to reach an agreement. The court system may modify the amount you owe based on your loss of employment. Typically, it’s rare to see a temporary reduction in child support obligations, but because COVID-19 has affected the job market in a way unseen since the Great Depression, state offices may be more lenient than usual. Find a qualified lawyer who can help you navigate the child support system, and you’ll be prepared regardless of the outcome.
The Cochran Firm is here to help you understand family law and child support rights and obligations. For more information, you can reach Attorney Johnelle R. Peer at The Cochran Firm Texas at 1800 THE FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or contact us now via our online chat.
Johnelle is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff where she received her BA in Criminal Justice and her MS in Addiction Studies. After graduate school, Johnelle went to work for the Dallas County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (Adult Probation). She worked in several capacities in that department including as a Felony Court officer, Field Officer, and as a Specialty Court officer. After 13 years of service at CSCD, Johnelle enrolled in the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law where she earned her Juris Doctorate with high honors and was admitted to the Texas State Bar in 2019. Her areas of practice include Family Law, Estate Planning, Wills and Guardianship.