Child Support During Covid-19
My name is Justine Roof. I’m an associate attorney at Denmon Pearlman Law Firm focusing in family law. I’ve been asked to basically put a video together about what our suggestion is for child support and I think it’s our suggestion basically for anything in family law, which is try to work together. It really is the best option for you, the best option for your kids, the best option for your wallet. Especially in these hard times, there’s not much that we can do in court to really address child support unless both parties are still currently in the status quo, meaning that the paying parent still makes the exact same income they made before or more and they can actually make those payments.
The Paying Parent vs The Non-Paying Parent
So I know that there are parents who are receiving child support who rely heavily on getting that set child support amount each month, especially during the pandemic, to try and make ends meet. But there are also parents on the other side who are making these payments, who may have had a reduction in hours or lost their job entirely.
So what I’m basically suggesting at this time is that for those of you who, the paying parent has either lost their job or reduced their hours, it’s not their fault, it’s because of the pandemic, that you try to come to an agreement with them, that you try to work with them to come to basically a reduced child support amount just for the pandemic where both parties can survive and essentially get through this situation.
The reason I’m suggesting this, instead of suggesting that you hire an attorney or try to go to court on your own on a motion for contempt is because in order to file a motion for contempt, which is an argument that the other party is willfully not following a court order, you have to show that not only are they willfully not following it but that they have the present ability to comply.
What If Paying Parent Lost Income
So the problem with that is if the paying party has lost their job or had a reduction in hours, you’re going to have a hard time proving that they actually have a present ability to comply with it, that they actually have that income to make that child support payment. So, in the long run, you could actually find yourself spending money on attorney’s fees and court fees and not seeing any result because the court is unable to find that that parent could actually make those child support payments right now.
Modifying Child Support
If the parent that’s actually making the payments wants to modify their payments at this time because they’ve either had a reduction in income or lost their job entirely, they’re also going to have a hard time because, in order to get a modification, one thing that the courts want to see for modification of child support is that there’s been a permanent change. Now we all understand and at least hope that this pandemic is not permanent. So that means that going to a core arguing that this pandemic has created a permanent change in your income is going to fail.
So once again, as the paying party, if you tried to do a modification now, you’re also probably going to end up getting attorney’s fees, court costs and nothing to show for it. This is why really what we’re encouraging parents to do is basically work together and come to your own resolution without trying to get the court involved. Keep in mind, this would only be temporary. It’s only for the pandemic. You’re not agreeing to change child support for the rest of the time. The parent needs to keep paying but there’s also another question that I’ve been kind of asked to handle, which is basically how stimulus checks are going to work, especially for parents who owe back pay in child support.
Stimulus Checks and Child Support
So I’m not sure if everybody’s heard already but stimulus checks are going to be coming out. It’s about 1200 per person who makes I believe under 70,000. Check me on that because I’m not sure exactly how much that amount is. I think that’s right and then $500 per child that you claimed on taxes in, I’ve seen both 2018 in 2019. I think it’s based on 2018 taxes. So you’d receive $500 per child. If you or your spouse owe back pay in child support, they’re actually going to take that out of your stimulus check, so just be prepared for that.
It’s just like if you got normal refund money from taxes, if you owe arrears and the IRS knows about it or if you owe back pay and the IRS knows about it, they’ll essentially take those funds and send them to the other parent and it’ll remove however much from your child support obligation for back pay only. So you need to understand that so that if you do owe back pay, you’re not relying heavily on this stimulus check in order to make ends meet in the future because you may not be seeing much, if any, of that stimulus check.
How Are Stimulus Checks Divided
How they’re going to divide the stimulus check for parents between whether or not they’re going to do basically like a pro-rata share or if each parent’s just going to get whatever the IRS gives them, the courts really haven’t come up with what they’re going to do on that. They’ve said basically they’re going to do a case by case basis just because this is really not something they’ve ever handled, nothing they’ve dealt with before. So really that’s just going to be something that you either need to talk to a lawyer about and just bring before the courts and it’s going to be a guessing game. If you’re close to 50/50 time-sharing, I really wouldn’t even make it an issue. I would just accept that each gets the 500 for each child if you have two. If you only have one child and you’re close to 50/50 I’d consider splitting the $500 with the other parent just because it is supposed to help pay for the children.
Again, these are very difficult times. This is something nobody has ever experienced before. We’re in completely unchartered territory and unfortunately, the courts are also trying to keep up with this but they haven’t dealt with this before either. So your best options for again you, your children and getting through this situation, is trying to work together as much as possible with the other parent. Trying to make sure that both of you can make ends meet so that your kids are provided for and regardless of your relationship with that other parent focusing on what’s best for your kids right now and that means your kids need to be seeing both parents and if you can provide for any sort of child support, you need to be doing that so that they can actually get everything that they need.
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